GOP brands Kane as a hypocrite
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Kathleen Kane once called it “a dangerous proposition” to have a state attorney general pick and choose laws to enforce.
What a difference a year makes.
The Republican Party and GOP lawmakers on Monday seized on a statement Kane made during her campaign, which the party released on video to contrast with her refusal last week to defend Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban because she believes it is unconstitutional.
Kane, a Democrat, fielded a question on PCN-TV about her primary opponent Patrick Murphy's statement that, if elected, he would not enforce a law requiring women to view ultrasound results before having an abortion. “The attorney general does not have the right to pick and choose which laws he or she enforces,” Kane said on the video.
“In fact, that's a dangerous proposition. … We need to make sure we enforce the laws, or you are just playing politics.”
The bill did not become law. Kane defeated Murphy in the primary and Republican David Freed in November.
Last week in Philadelphia, Kane announced she “cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's version of (the Defense of Marriage Act) when I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional.”
The state GOP, in releasing the campaign-style video, said Kane is doing just what she said Murphy should not do when sparring with him: refuse to defend state laws.
“Kane's shameless publicity stunt is now revealed as stunning hypocrisy,” Valerie Caras, the GOP's communications and technology director, said in the email.
But Kane spokesman Joe Peters called her decision a “watershed moment.” She believed the 1996 same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, Peters said: “It would have been unethical for her to proceed.”
Kane does not hold that position on Pennsylvania's voter ID law, which an assistant attorney general defended in court Monday on the first day of trial. The same is true of the ultrasound bill.
“It's not a matter of picking and choosing,” Peters said. “She may disagree personally” with enacted legislation and will defend those laws, he said, but Pennsylvania's version of DOMA is different because it was unconstitutional.
Taxpayers have flooded Kane's office with calls and emails since her announcement on Thursday — more in favor of her position than against, Peters said.
“I think (Republicans) are looking for any reason to oppose this particular attorney general,” said Chuck Ardo, former spokesman for ex-Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. “She clearly made a decision of conscience.”
He believes the party's concern is that Kane will “establish herself” and make the Office of Attorney General competitive. Since 1981, when it was established as an elected office, Republicans have controlled the office.
Kane has said the Commonwealth Attorneys Act gives the attorney general authority to delegate cases to the Office of General Counsel under the governor. Kane said that's what she would do with a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups to contest the same-sex marriage law. Kane is one defendant in the case.
“The question really is, is the attorney general above the law?” said Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Hempfield. “She has effectively asserted that she is, that she can unilaterally determine a law is unconstitutional, and then ignore her obligation under Section 204 of the Commonwealth Attorneys Act to defend that law. Ordinary citizens cannot determine for themselves that a law is unconstitutional and then choose to ignore it. Neither can the Attorney General.”
“She should defend our laws,” said Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler. “I don't believe in picking and choosing.”
If Kane “wants a position that works on amending laws, she ran for the wrong office,” said Rep. Mike Reese, R-Mt. Pleasant.
As attorney general, charged with enforcing state laws, “you swear to uphold the Constitution, not the parts you agree with,” said Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.