HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s political support has virtually collapsed as she prepares to fight criminal charges that could end her career.
Kane’s backing in legal and political circles was tenuous before she was charged in an alleged political payback scheme and has largely crumbled since she was arraigned Aug. 6 on perjury and other charges, according to several Democratic insiders.
A conviction could force her out of office, cutting short the tenure of the first woman and the first Democrat elected attorney general.
Political leaders from both parties, including Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and House Majority Leader Dave Reed, a Republican, have called on Kane to resign.
If she remains the attorney general, “I think it’s going to affect the administration of justice,” Wolf said Friday in an interview with KQV Radio in Pittsburgh.
“It affects, I think, people’s perception of their democracy. The government that they own and that they run,” the governor said. “This is something that depends on trust. This kind of thing erodes that trust.”
As Kane prepares to campaign for re-election in 2016, more than one Democrat is weighing primary challenges against her.
Even before any trial, the state Supreme Court could suspend Kane’s law license if it decides that her alleged misconduct was “egregious,” effectively removing her from office because the state constitution requires the attorney general to have a law license.
Suburban Philadelphia prosecutors in Montgomery County accuse Kane of leaking secret grand jury information to a newspaper reporter to embarrass a former state prosecutor who she believes made her look bad and then lying about it under oath.
At a news conference supposedly on the court case, Kane sought to shift the blame for her legal troubles on what she claims are efforts by unnamed state prosecutors and judges to conceal their roles in circulating pornographic and racially insensitive emails.
The attorney general’s office discovered pornographic emails in government computers during a review of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse prosecution and exposed many of them last year. That prompted the suspension and retirement of a state Supreme Court justice and numerous firings and reprimands.
Kane’s unexpected reprise of the scandal that has been dormant for months may raise new questions about governmental ethics but she has provided no details to support her allegations.
Her legal team plans to file papers next week asking Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter, who supervised the grand jury probe that led the charges, to authorize her to release the emails. Carpenter has said none of the emails in the attorney general’s possession were introduced as grand jury evidence.
The developments have left many political observers shaking their heads.
“I think she’s overwhelmed. I think she’s just swimming in a sea by herself,” said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, a Democrat who supported Kane in 2012 but said he is seriously considering running against her.
“What puzzled me the most was nothing she was saying had anything to do with the case that has been charged against her,” said Walter Cohen, a Harrisburg lawyer and Republican who served as acting attorney general for several months while the post was vacant in 1995.
Kane is “trying to build an argument that she’s a victim here,” said Terry Madonna, a professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. “It has nothing to do with (prosecutors’) 42-page affidavit, nothing to do with the testimony of the people who appeared before the grand jury.”
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat who also has called for Kane’s resignation, said her claims about efforts to conceal offensive emails in state computers should be thoroughly explored.
Associated Press reporter Marc Levy contributed to this report.