The latest chapter in 'The Kane Chronicles'
As Attorney General Kathleen Kane dodged a removal vote in the state Senate, word continued to circulate about the prospect of federal wiretap recordings of Kane's operatives.
“I have absolutely no comment,” said her defense attorney Gerald Shargel. The reputed recordings have not been released and are believed to be tied to the criminal case against Kane in Montgomery County. It's not known what, if any, effect it will have on her perjury and obstruction case.
Why federal recordings? Sources say they are an offshoot of the federal investigation of former Treasurer Rob McCord, who pleaded guilty to extortion more than a year ago. He admitted in federal court to shaking down state contractors for campaign cash.
Mysteriously, McCord has yet to be sentenced, lending credence to the notion that he is singing like a canary. That's not to suggest Kane is any jeopardy as a result of McCord's cooperation — only that there is an apparent link. She maintains her innocence.
Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Senate produced a majority vote to remove Kane from office but fell short of the two-thirds majority required under the state Constitution. All but one Republican voted to remove her while one Democrat, Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin County, voted to do so.
Why would the Senate vote to remove Kane, a Democrat, when leaders knew they probably did not have the votes? Typically, they only run bills with the votes to pass.
“It was the right thing to do” said Joe Scarnati, Senate president pro tempore.
I believe him. Elected officials often have multiple reasons for doing things.
Despite the failed vote, the Senate Republican Caucus is the only entity in Harrisburg that tried to address the chaos in the AG's office. It took a very narrow path — can Kane function effectively with a suspended law license? GOP leaders concluded, based on four hearings, that she cannot. There were no cheap shots. The hearings were handled professionally. Kane declined to appear.
The House embarking on impeachment proceedings against Kane through a broad investigation isn't much consolation to professional law enforcement agents and prosecutors, who were hoping for a Kane departure. Impeachment is a long, drawn-out process. It might take most of the year or at least until mid-summer. The House impeaches and the Senate holds a trial.
The House voted to authorize an investigation the same day the Senate voted on removal. It gave political cover to Democrats. Many said publicly or privately that they preferred the impeachment process. I believe them, too. It is lengthier but a more traditional route. The removal clause hasn't been used since the late 1800s.
Again, multiple reasons.
But the House should have started in October when the Senate began its inquiry.
Where was Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, who had called for Kane to resign? If he had publicly stated before the Senate vote that he would sign a removal petition, it might have snared three more Democrats.
And Kane would be gone.
Or at least she'd be filing her next legal action.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405).