We could see this train wreck coming for a long time.
Nine months ago, a statewide grand jury recommended criminal charges be filed against state Attorney General Kathleen Kane for allegedly orchestrating a leak of what are supposed to be confidential grand jury materials as an act of political revenge against a former prosecutor in her office — and then lying about it to the grand jury.
Thursday, she was charged. She was arraigned on Saturday.
According to the criminal complaint, she would leak confidential grand jury materials to a political operative, who would then leak them to the press — all in an effort embarrass former state prosecutors she believed were trying to make her look bad, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.
It seems to cap Kane’s fall from political grace after sweeping to office in 2012 with the promise of reforms.
She quickly developed a reputation for being, well … complicated.
She quashed then-Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize the state lottery — a good move.
But she also became mired in skirmishes with former staffers and made a series of missteps that were confounding — such as when she had to retract statements she made about additional victims of convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky.
On the one hand, she successfully investigated turnpike officials on corruption charges, and she courageously refused to defend the state’s ban on gay marriage —a good decision, considering how the U.S. Supreme Court case played out.
On the other hand, she was accused of playing politics in bribery cases involving Philadelphia politicians and had 61 employees implicated in the so-called Porngate scandal that erupted because of her review of the Sandusky case — a review, mind you, that revealed nothing really new.
She has professed her innocence and has pledged to fight the charges and remain in office while the case winds its way through court.
That is her right, of course. She is innocent until proven guilty.
But for the sake of her office, and for the sake of the commonwealth, it would be a good idea to step down. It just doesn’t look good that the state’s chief law enforcement officer is doing her job while facing criminal charges herself.
She said in a statement that a resignation would be an admission of guilt and that she is innocent.
It wouldn’t be. It would be an admission that defending yourself on criminal charges would hamper your ability to do your job most effectively.
She is the first Pennsylvania attorney general since Ernie Preate to face criminal charges in office. He was convicted of federal corruption charges and jailed.
And she is the latest in a long line of state government officials, elected and otherwise, who have run afoul of the law.
From state legislative leaders who went to prison for their role in using the state bureaucracy as their own personal political machines, to a Supreme Court justice who served house arrest in her mini-mansion for using state resources for political activity, to turnpike officials who granted contracts in return for hospitality from firms doing business with the state, to these allegations against Kane now, Pennsylvania is gaining quite a reputation for political malfeasance.
What are we, East Illinois?