We first read the Inquirer’s Sunday report on Frank Fina’s aborted Philadelphia “sting” online, without having seen the ludicrous “MEN WALK ON MOON”-sized headline.
We thought what we were reading was an exposé of Fina’s shoddy, racist, irresponsible investigative methods. We were shocked later to realize that it was Attorney General Kathleen Kane whose judgment was being questioned. We're still shocked, to be honest.
Kane’ main reasons for declining to prosecute are unambiguous:
- The entire case hinged on the testimony of a swindler accused of stealing nearly a half-million dollars from a state food program for low-income children and seniors. In exchange for his cooperation, Tyron B. Ali wasn’t merely offered a deal on the charges, but given a complete free pass – an agreement “so extraordinary and lenient that it effectively undermined the CI's credibility and that of OAG for having agreed to it,” Kane said.
- The recordings Ali made are the only evidence, and Ali was the only one who could verify them. “No other supporting or corroborating evidence exists,” Kane said
- The OAG Agent who managed Ali told current senior OAG executive staff that he was to focus only on members of the Black Caucus and not to pursue potentially illegal acts by white legislators.
- Ali himself gave “statements about limiting the focus of the investigation to only members of the General Assembly's Black Caucus” to federal law enforcement officials.
- It's not illegal for officials simply to accept gifts. The operation failed to establish a clear quid-pro-quo. The only thing the officials appear to be guilty of is a failure to report the gifts on their ethics statements - an offense equal to Governor Tom Corbett's failure to report the purchase of a $265,000 vacation home in South Carolina - and no one seems to be clamoring for a criminal prosecution of Corbett.
Probably not in two-foot-high font, though.
Since Kane’s exhaustively thorough press conference yesterday, the punditocracy seems to be backing off its initial pearl-clutching horror while still blaming Kane for her own tar-and-feathering. After all, they sniffed, she should have explained everything in more detail before the story was published. Perhaps she should have. But perhaps she thought she would be afforded the same respect for her office that Corbett had been. Perhaps she thought that her word that a case was compromised beyond salvaging would be taken seriously. Furthermore, we don’t know how much time she was given to respond, or how the allegations of political cronyism were presented to her.
We at this blog have spent years – years! – documenting clear-cut instances where Tom Corbett failed to prosecute wrongdoing by political allies. York County District Attorney Stan Rebert. Rep. Matt Wright. Rep. James Lynch. State Rep. Mauree Gingrich. State Rep. Eugene McGill. Crawford County Treasurer Fred Wagner. And these are just a few that we know about.
Corbett has not offered a single justification for not prosecuting as cogent as Kane’s plethora of reasons in the Philadelphia case. In fact, we can’t recall Corbett even being asked. But if he had given a reason, we’re sure it would have been accepted at face value.
Perhaps most egregiously, Corbett “cleared” the Senate Republican Caucus - which awarded the largest taxpayer-funded bonuses to staff who worked on campaigns – of wrongdoing without subpoenaing a single witness to appear before the grand jury. Even a Republican Senator called Corbett’s investigation “a joke” and said his lack of action was politically motivated. Corbett in fact blew off an intern who tried to report illegal campaigning in Sen. Jane Orie’s office, then his spokesman tried to lie about it.
Senate Republicans contributed at least $90,000 to Corbett’s campaign.