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House unlikely to attempt Kane impeachment

| Sunday, May 4, 2014, 9:10 p.m.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane last year dismissed a case against former confidential informant, Tyron B. Ali, contending the investigation by her predecessors was legally flawed, tainted with racism, and inactive for nine months before she took office in January 2013.

HARRISBURG — The ranking Democrat on the House State Government Committee said the Republican chairman's resolution to impeach Attorney General Kathleen Kane “is based on policy decisions, not wrongdoing.”

The committee plans a non-voting session on Tuesday about impeaching Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected attorney general. Any subsequent committee vote would need House approval. A House vote to impeach would trigger a trial in the Senate.

Last week, Kane declined to comment on the hearing. Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, didn't invite her to testify.

Political experts view the chances of impeachment proceeding as slim in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“This just doesn't make sense for the long-range future of Pennsylvania. It would be a mistake,” said Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, the minority chairman.

Political tumult in the General Assembly is “not as toxic as (in) Washington,” but attempting to impeach the state attorney general for policy disagreements could lead there, Cohen said.

He didn't rule out an eventual committee vote but predicted the House would not take up an impeachment resolution. It's unprecedented, Cohen said.

Metcalfe proposed impeaching Kane for refusing to defend the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage — something he considers her duty — and for declining to prosecute four Philadelphia Democratic lawmakers who were videotaped taking cash.

Kane claims legal underpinnings of the legislative investigation failed to pass muster. She said she can't ethically defend the gay marriage ban because she believes it's unconstitutional.

Metcalfe criticized Kane for giving her twin sister a 19 percent pay raise, but a spokesman said a deputy, not Kane, made that decision. Her sister worked for prior attorneys general and stayed on when Kane took office.

J. Christian Adams, a policy board member of the American Civil Rights Union and founder of the Election Law Center in Virginia, plans to testify about Kane's “corrosive effect on election integrity.”

In prepared remarks provided to the Tribune-Review, Adams, who grew up in Westmoreland County, said Kane's “brazen unwillingness to pursue behavior by some elected officials who reportedly took bribes in exchange for votes against voter identification legislation sends a signal that criminal behavior touching on elections will be tolerated.”

A lobbyist who became an undercover informant for the attorney general's office provided more than $16,000 to legislators to vote against the voter ID bill. The bill became law, but a challenge is pending before appellate courts.

The legislators are Reps. Ron Waters, Louise Bishop, Vanessa Brown and Michelle Brownlee, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Kane called it the “Black Caucus investigation” under her Republican predecessors. She said black lawmakers were unfairly targeted. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who is black, said he sees no racism in the case.

Williams last week took Kane up on her offer to let him review the evidence for possible prosecution.

“Kathleen Kane is the most transparent attorney general we've ever had,” Cohen said. “She has discussed this to her detriment.”

Critics have picked apart her reasons for not prosecuting the legislators, Cohen said.

Former Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican who now is governor, was “very closed-mouth,” Cohen said.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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