Analysis: The Kathleen Kane Backlash

Kathleen-Kane-portrait1What the media giveth, the media taketh away – Primary Colors

Kathleen Kane is in deep trouble, at least that’s the narrative that has gathered shape over the last few weeks.

The Attorney General, once seen as perhaps the state’s brightest rising star, is now mired in a number of controversies. So what happened? In order to get a full answer, we must take the widest view possible to get the best overall picture.

In the wake of the release of the Moulton report, Kane has been portrayed as owing her election to the claims she made alleging that Gov. Corbett slow walked the Sandusky investigation. That she “charged into Harrisburg on a Nittany Lion” as the Morning Call put it in their recent, and quite engrossing, account of Kane’s current situation.

While it is likely her pledge to investigate the case helped to pad her high vote total, Kane had a number of other factors in her favor in 2012. These included a larger, more Democratically favorable general electorate, strong fundraising and above all, the fact that she was a political newcomer.

Throughout the campaign Kane would identify herself as “a prosecutor, not a politician.” In a time when voters are especially averse to politicians Kane had the advantage of being a fresh face.

More to point, she was a new personality for the press to cover. Today, in a world of MSNBC and Fox News, voters are more likely than ever to accuse the news of having a liberal or conservative bias. This framework, though, misses the true bias of our current media landscape, one towards sensationalism.

And there is nothing more sensational than something, or someone, new.

Consciously or unconsciously, we all gravitate to “the next big thing” and it’s a phenomenon that even extends into presidential politics. Fresh candidates like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama are inherently more interesting than old-hat, staid politicians like George H.W. Bush, Al Gore or John McCain.

A side-effect of this situation is that the newcomer can often glide into office relatively easily without gaining the necessary experience of dealing with a hostile press.

Inevitably, though, things start to change. The press, much like a referee who misses a call and internally knows they owe one to the other team, begins to focus more closely to see if the official stumbles.

The dam first started to break for Kathleen Kane in March when the Inquirer reported she had shut down an undercover sting operation against members of the State House. The details in the case were complex and several observers agreed with her decision but Kane turned the episode into a loss with a terrible PR move.

At a meeting with Inquirer reporters a few days later, Kane showed up yet refused to speak. Instead, she brought her own lawyer, Richard Sprague, and let him speak for her. The media understandably took umbrage at this awkward snub and a photo of the elderly Sprague (who was wearing a tracksuit for some reason) sitting beside a frowning Kane became the lasting image of the incident.

The real crisis for Kane, though, was precipitated by the release of the aforementioned Moulton report. After all the sound and fury about the Sandusky investigation, no evidence of political interference was found. It was the AG’s press conference, however, and not the actual report that caused the biggest uproar.

While Kane was far from the only person to question Corbett’s motives in his handling of the case, she had to know her past comments to the Scranton Times-Tribune would come up. Yet when asked by the press about those comments she had no coherent answer prepared.

Even worse, she stated that two victims had been abused by Sandusky during the investigation. This allegation had never been made before and rested on vague statements from the victims who were unsure about the exact timeline. Then, Attorney General Kane was slow to admit she made a mistake when she asserted these incidents took place.

What has gone unsaid, though, is that Kane’s poor performance is related to the fact that this was her first really contentious press conference of her tenure. Make no mistake, this does not excuse her actions, it is merely meant to provide a broader, fuller explanation of recent events.

Fortunately for Kane these issues are, for the moment at least, more a crisis of confidence than a serious scandal. Yet with her giving indications that she is eyeing a possible Senate run in 2016, the scrutiny is only going to get tougher.

So far, the Attorney General hasn’t given the impression that she can withstand the heat and prevail in such a contest. Her political career depends in large part on how she can handle these future tests.

20 thoughts on “Analysis: The Kathleen Kane Backlash

  1. I had high hopes hopes for the current AG but one fumble after another tells me she is in over her head. Toomey needs to be, and can be, taken out but not by Kane and clearly not Sestak. Talk about dealing a good hand to Toomey.

  2. Larry-
    … or I have insomnia…

    You are posting at 11:13am. Not lunchtime. Do you have a job or just posting when you are supposed to be working?

  3. Jon-
    It is common knowledge that Brady pushed Philly legislators to vote for the congressional redistricting (that gave him a much whiter district as a defense against any future black primary challengers). It’s not even remotely considered any kind of secret.

    What is NOT known is what specific inducements he used to secure the votes. Maybe he just asked politely (like Brando in The Godfather). Maybe he threatened to back a challenger against them or withhold support. Maybe he offered something more tangible, like a job for a friend/relative. There are a lot of political levers at his disposal.

    The Dems that voted for the redistricting should all be placed under oath and questioned regarding their motivations in making such a horrible vote that destroyed the 7th district by making in one of the most gerrymandered in the country. If I recall correctly, Tartaglione was the tie-breaking vote that got the bill out of Senate committee.

    You don’t get these kinds of votes by accident. And you don’t find out why unless you get a DA who is willing to go up against Brady and ask the tough questions.

    Unfortunately, Seth Williams isn’t that kind of DA. He’s the kind who wants Brady’s help up the ladder and isn’t going to rock the boat and ask any official questions (if he had to act upon the answers).

  4. I’m no Bob Brady fan, but do you have any proof that these allegations are true? If so, perhaps you should enlighten our Attorney General so she can botch yet another case.

    If you don’t want Seth Williams, I guess I can understand your anti-Philadelphia mentality. However, as a Pennsylvanian, I would appreciate an Attorney General who can handle the job. I’m sure AG Kane is a very nice person, but surely there has got to be another former ADA from Lackawanna County who is more capable…

  5. Jon-
    Let’s try to keep the AG office clean of Philly politics.

    If Williams is REALLY interested in going after corruption by state reps, he should investigate how Bob Brady convinced/induced Philly reps to vote for the GOP’s horrible congressional redistricting.

    He can talk and talk all he wants, but he’s afraid to go after the kingpin of Philly politics.

  6. Rough year for our Attorney General. I’m somewhat shocked Democrats and the media alike are shocked she’s proven to be incompetent. I cannot wait for DA Williams to indict the 4 Philly State Reps. At that point, I think Kane should probably do the voters of PA a favor and step aside. Seth Williams 2016!

  7. steve-

    If you bother to read Larry’s postings, you’d see his 10:43am comment broached the subject of oral sex as his form of argument/response. I merely sought clarification regarding his own motives in attacking Kane, as he’s presented no other more reasonable/likely explanation.

    As for Kane’s reputation: She’s not corrupt.

    This distinguishes her from previous and aspiring occupants to the job.

  8. David- Does being a foul jerk imply that you have no intellectual ability to respond to Larry? Or perhaps you know the rep Ms. Kane has?

  9. Larry-
    I thought the question was pretty clear, but allow me to rephrase: Are your attacks on Kane motivated by a desire to receive bl*wjobs from Corbett, Fina and/or Williams in gratitude for your service to their goals of smearing Kane?

  10. DD, if your question made any sense, I would answer it. As everyone but the most ideologically dogmatic liberals (like you) have recognized is that Kane is (1) incompetent, which is not surprising since she didn’t have much experience as a prosecutor and didn’t work for seven years before her husband bought her the position, and (2) entirely motivated by politics.

    She took a huge risk when she ran for office on a promise to “investigate” Corbett’s hugely successful prosecution of Sandusky, and that blew up in her face when the report showed how Corbett had no involvement in anything improper. She’s a political hack, and now her fellow law enforcement officers want nothing to do with her. But you mindlessly support her. Good for you.

  11. Larry-
    So, is the “story” that Kane is not good because she was elected to attack Corbett, but didn’t find anything deliberately/politically criminal? But, also, she’s not good for attacking Corbett at the press conference by pretty much indicating he was criminally negligent?

    Larry, your attacks on Kane designed to get you fellation from Corbett, Fina or Williams?

  12. Oh great, now we have one rabid mindless liberal (Andrew) fellating another (DD).

  13. If this were Facebook, I would hit my “like” button for David Diano’s posts. I do believe, however, that AG Kane has gotten bad advice about messaging, and that she should consider staff changes…yesterday.

  14. DD, of course that’s your interpretation. But reasonable people see the press conference comment for what it was: KK’s desperate desire to smear Corbett even if it takes making stuff up to do so.

  15. mark hentz-
    My interpretation is that there was some confusion over the dates with victim #9.

    There apparently was another alleged victim who claimed there was one or more incidents after March 2009. Fina claims he did not believe this individual (thus attempting to free himself from the charge that an addition child was harmed during his two years of foot dragging was Sandusky was loose on the streets). So, this post-March-2009 alleged victim was never made part of the case.

    Maybe Kane has a different opinion regarding the allegation? Maybe the victim was correct, but lacked sufficient proof for trial so Fina disregards him?

    I find it highly unlikely that after years of molesting and raping young boys that Sandusky suddenly stopped during the two years that Fina sat on the case (unless he was tipped off about the investigation).

    So, the existence of other victims during those two years would not surprise me. Maybe the parents/authorities don’t know, or maybe with all the other victims coming forward, the parents didn’t want to put their children in the position of reliving their nightmares in court.

    Fina screwed up in not arresting Scandusky after the first victim appears. And now, he and his cohorts from that era are trying desperately to smear Kane to cover their own reckless endangerment and incompetence.

  16. Nick Field appears to be suggesting here that victim 9 lied on the stand when he testified at Sandusky’s trial that his abuse continued until shortly after his 16th birthday in September of 2009. Leave alone that Field appears to be calling yet another potential victim who claimed to have been abused in 2009 a liar, claiming as Field seems to be doing so with victim #9 that any of the victims lied on the stand ain’t for the squeemish. I had thought that calling out the Sandusky victims as liars was anathema for the press but playing at PA politics appears to trump every other concern for PA journalists. Field has the nerve of a viking on a war raid.

  17. “Kane had a number of other factors in her favor in 2012″

    She got A LOT of good name recognition during the primary. Hardly anyone had any idea who was running against her.

    Also, she clearly wasn’t interested in spending her time as AG as a stepping stone to run for GOV (as was beyond obvious with Murphy).

    I disagree with the characterization that Kane was “slow to admit”.
    – “On June 23, Moulton shared a stage with Kane as they presented their findings to reporters in the Capitol.”
    – “Kane clarified her statement on June 24″

    A lot of the “problems” are fairly inside baseball to the press and political junkies. Kane has two more years to work on handling press-conferences, but her re-elected is going to hinge on the performance of the AG’s office. What is the track record? What are the stats?

    I think all this will blow over, as the public only has memory for actual scandals, not trivial press conference flubs.

    While I would support Kane to take out Toomey, I think Kane is going to stay in the AG’s office running as an incumbent. This avoids an expensive primary with Sestak, Shapiro (and others??). She might have to worry about a primary challenge from Seth Williams, but he’s easily tied to “Philly politics” and his own desire for power over service. Besides, if anyone else in Philly runs for AG, it would dilute Williams votes and help Kane.

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