During Kathleen Granahan Kane’s campaign to become Pennsylvania’s first elected Democrat and first elected female attorney general, she adopted a powerful mantra that stressed her commitment to law and ethics and propelled her to victory.
Kane, 45, emblazoned the words “prosecutor, not politician,” on her campaign materials and promised that the good old boys who depend on special interests would have no friend in Harrisburg.
But just weeks after her swearing-in ceremony, Kane is playing politics with the worst of them - for a Republican, no less.
Witnesses claim to have seen her – maybe it was her twin sister or body double sent for security reason, for all I know – at a Sunday fundraiser for Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola, who is running for re-election.
Since Jarbola once employed Kane as an assistant district attorney and actually did a rousing television commercial defending and supporting Kane during the campaign, some people are calling it payback. Such mutual support and admiration is not unusual. You-scratch-my-ballot-I’ll-scratch-yours is the way bare-knuckle politics is played in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Unsavory as it is, politics as usual is the norm. But Kane made such a big deal about turning over the tables among the political status quo that people actually believed her. Disappointment among political supporters is understandable. But Kane rabid loyalists are justifying her appearance at Jarbola’s annual brunch by saying it shows how impartial and non-partisan Kane can be.
Only in hard coal country can such delusion pass for public service.
Because I didn’t attend, I can’t say for sure if Kane was the woman writing the check.
So on Monday I placed my first official call to the new attorney general’s press office and asked to speak with director of communications Ellen Melody. Kane’s spokeswoman was in a meeting, another aide told me. But she said she would check to see if I could get confirmation that Kane did attend the Jarbola fundraiser. When she returned, she informed me that I would have to talk with “the campaign” since the fundraiser was not an official attorney general’s appearance.
What campaign? Is Kane already running for re-election? Does she have a “Friends of Kathleen Kane” organization already in pace to solicit cash contribution for the future? And, since she is the attorney general, like it or not, any where she goes she is and will be identified as the attorney general. Whether or not she or her staff realizes it, public responsibilities come with the public service job.
Kane’s job description brings another significant issue into the discussion: Did the attorney general bring anybody from her staff to the political event?
Since Kane’s office refused to answer questions about the Jarbola event, I also can’t say for sure if Kane’s bodyguard Pat Reese attended with his boss. Reese regularly failed to return my phone calls when he served as Dunmore police chief so I don’t expect him to return my phone calls today.
Witnesses claim they saw Reese, who now serves the Commonwealth as “supervisor/special agent for executive protection detail” and heads up Kane’s personal security detail when she and other office staff travel in public.
For all I know, the person who looked like Reese might also have been a body double meant to throw off Kane’s critics. But witnesses are often accurate. So are taxpayers who now wonder if Kane’s attendance at a partisan political fundraiser – for which I’m absolutely told she wrote a check – involved a paid state staffer who was working security for her in his official capacity while attending a private political fundraising event.
OK, maybe Reese is allowed to go.
But what was he driving? Kane faces more troubling questions if she and Reese arrived in a state vehicle.
But maybe she borrowed one of the family trucks from her husband’s company that contributed about $2 million to her campaign, the same company that benefits from a lucrative state contract hauling liquor.
The contract and how the Kane family held onto it all these years is a story for another day.
Kane needs to start answering questions.
Unlike the recent press conference when Kane showed up with her lottery announcement and refused to take reporters’ questions, maybe this time Kane will recognize that the public has an inviolable right to know how public money is spent and how valuable state resources are accounted for.
Unless, of course, the prosecutor is more politician than even her most ardent admirers want to admit.