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Pennsylvania

Beleaguered Pennsylvania AG Kathleen Kane seeks 5% budget increase for agency

| Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, 10:54 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane, facing trial on criminal charges in August, on Thursday asked a Senate panel for a 5 percent budget increase for her agency.

Kane arrived and departed under heavy security and refused to answer reporters' questions after the hearing, which lasted less than an hour.

None of the senators from either political party asked Kane, a Democrat, how she'll pay up to $2 million to a Washington law firm to investigate porn exchanged on state government email servers.

Kane on Dec. 1 named Douglas Gansler as a special deputy to lead the effort that will examine potential conflicts among prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges who exchanged emails.

Gansler's law firm has a contract with the Office of Attorney General, but Gansler does not independently have a contract with the office, Kane's spokesman said. Kane selectively released offensive emails starting in the fall of 2014.

She declined to answer questions from reporters about suspended Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin following a judicial court's refusal at a hearing in Pittsburgh to consider any deal regarding Eakin's lewd emails.

Kane last fall reported Eakin's emails to the state judicial board. She said she didn't know enough about what happened in Pittsburgh while her office's budget hearing was ongoing.

Kane announced last week she would not seek re-election to a second term. She is the first woman to hold the elected office of attorney general.

Kane, 49, of Scranton faces felony perjury charges, obstruction of justice and official oppression for allegedly lying and orchestrating a cover-up of her grand jury leak to a Philadelphia newspaper to embarrass a critic, prosecutors claim. Kane says she's innocent and that she was set up by an “old boys network” for exposing porn exchanges on state computers. Kane's law license was suspended by the Supreme Court in October. An effort to remove her from office failed in the state Senate. The House is conducting an impeachment investigation.

The Legislature is controlled by Republicans.

Most of the budget increase Kane requested was for mandatory retirement costs for employees, she said. Her office employs 759 people. She also requested money for equipment and additional agents for the drug and Internet predators units.

Brad Bumsted is the Tribune-Review's state Capitol reporter.

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