AG Kane hires attorney amid fallout of corruption investigation

Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) has hired attorney Richard Sprague as she deals with the fallout of news of a corruption investigation revealed earlier this week by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Kane’s spokesman Joe Peters confirmed Kane’s decision, saying she’s paying Sprague with her personal money and not using taxpayer money. The Inquirer reported Sprague is representing her in possible defamation lawsuits.

On Sunday, the Inquirer broke news (click here) that Kane did not move forward with a corruption investigation which began and ended before she took office.

The Inquirer reported a confidential informant gave cash and gifts, which were never reported, to at least five Philadelphia officials, including four state representatives and a traffic court judge. Kane acknowledged Monday that more than $20,000 of taxpayer money was used but that none of the targets of the investigation would face charges.

Kane said a key issue was the credibility of the confidential informant, identified as Tyron Ali. In exchange for Ali’s cooperation in the case, Kane said more than 2,000 charges against Ali were dropped in a case in which he allegedly defrauded the state of more than $400,000. Kane called the agreement “the deal of the century.”

Kane also said she believed race of the targets was a factor in the investigation. The targets identified in the Inquirer story are all African-American. They include Democratic state representatives Ron Waters, Louise Bishop, Michelle Brownlee, Vanessa Brown as well as former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes.

“Two separate individuals came forward and said that they were told to target only members of the Black Caucus,” said Kane.

Activist Gene Stilp filed ethics complaints Tuesday with the Pa. State Ethics Commission and the Pa. House of Representatives Ethics Committee.

Stilp said all taxpayer money taken should be returned, and that the five identified in the Inquirer story should be fined. Stilp acknowledged, though, that punishments ultimately may be light.

“The House Ethics Committee and the Ethics Commission can’t do that much,” said Stilp.

He’s called on the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation and appoint a special prosecutor to review the case.

“The case has taken some odd turns here, and it’s probably going to take more. More facts have to come out. So, that’s why we need an overarching investigation that looks at all the four attorneys general involved,” said Stilp.

Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, says the case should encourage lawmakers to ban lobbyist gifts altogether.

“In Pennsylvania, public officials can receive unlimited gifts as long as they report it,” said Kauffman. “The people that have to make the changes are the people currently benefiting from the system.”