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February 09, 2016

It's long past time for Kathleen Kane to step aside

With a State Senate vote looming, the AG should be the better person and quit for the good of Pennsylvania

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania State Senate will vote on a resolution designed to oust Attorney General Kathleen Kane in a move that’s not only being called unconstitutional, but one that obliterates any presumption of her innocence.

What the State Senate and government as a whole should set out to accomplish – besides, ya know, passing a state budget – is finding a way to make this whole sordid mess just go away instead of stoking further rage and scandal.

This whole tale of Porngate vengeance has done exactly nothing good for Pennsylvania as we await Kane's trial. Well, I take that back. It’s benefitted some folks by fueling a scandal-industrial complex that fattens journalism-awards submission binders with leaks about leaks, grants one political party the talking points necessary to skewer their foes and foments division within the other party.

It’s given rabble-rousing activist/perennial candidate T. Milton Street Sr. the platform to blast Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’ professional protection of a trio of employees caught up in its porny web.

It’s forced members of the local media to head to court asserting Shield Law protection in an effort to protect sources of leaks that fueled much of the drama.

It’s also taken Pennsylvania to the laughingstock level achievable only by having the official elected as chief law-enforcement level to be legally spayed via suspended law license.

Everyone has the right to defend themselves against allegations that potentially affect their freedom. Because of that, it’s unfair to suggest that Kane – accused of leaking secret grand-jury information to humiliate colleagues and expose a sexist-and-pornographic cyberweb involving state officials – should just take a plea deal. The whole thing reeks of doling out paybacks.

She has the right to defend herself when trial arrives in August, but she also faces the moral imperative to protect the sanctity of the office to which she was elected by Pennsylvania voters.

But dear God, when will enough be enough?

Should 33 members of the Republican-controlled, 49-member Senate say they have “reasonable cause” to oust her, it’ll go to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, for approval. Considering how wishy-washy he’s been on the matter, that’s no certainty, so the next step could be a months-long impeachment process that would serve to further bog down Harrisburg’s accomplish-little contingent.

The seemingly never-ending waste of time that this story has become makes Wednesday’s vote seem akin to the Michigan State Senate passing a bill perceived to be about sodomy instead of focusing on the Flint water travesty.

The only thing that’s become clear through this whole sordid mess is that it’s a destructive distraction about egos, revenge and personal power.

If a questionably legal referendum becomes a camel’s back-breaking straw, fine, pursue it. But there is an easier solution now, just like there’s been for months on end: The attorney general whose law license has been suspended should step aside either temporarily or permanently.

I’m hardly the first person to suggest this (see here, here and here).

But what Wednesday’s political move makes available is an escape hatch for the professionally impotent Kane who, despite it all, still seeks re-election.

“I am innocent of these charges, and will prove so in a court of law in six months,” she could say. “However, I’ve concluded that the case against me has drawn way too much effort and attention away to important issues that affect all Pennsylvanians. 

"So, today, I am announcing that I will step aside to let the Attorney General’s Office fully focus on serving the citizenry by doing the job it's designed to do, not waddle around in the muck that we've created.”

With each passing day of stubbornness, Kane proves that she values self-preservation over the greater good. Sure, it must be painful to see your promising political career in tatters, but fighting the good fight has never been a phrase applied to sloppy messes that get sloppier by the minute.

A refusal to see that is neither something we should accept of the lead law-enforcement officer in our state nor Kathleen Kane should accept of herself.

The onus is on Kane herself to see that, and to do the right thing, career consequences be damned.