Friday, October 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Kane: proper or political?

Charges against an incumbent state senator announced by Atty. Gen. Kathleen Kane raise some eyebrows in a political subtext.

Kane: proper or political?

John Baer: Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced charges against State Rep. LeAnna Washington with a prepared statement and no further comment. Would Kane have done the same thing if it had been a long-time incumbent white Republican male?
John Baer: Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced charges against State Rep. LeAnna Washington with a prepared statement and no further comment. Would Kane have done the same thing if it had been a long-time incumbent white Republican male?

Like diner daily specials, almost everything that occurs in the arena of politics comes with at least two sides.

Take the announcement of charges against veteran African-American Democratic state lawmaker LeAnna Washington, accused of using her public office for personal and political gain.

(Apparently, she never got the memo. Or read a newspaper in the last several years.)

Washington has served in the Legislature since 1993, in the state Senate since 2005 representing parts of Philly and Montco.

Busting such long-time incumbency is seen by prosecutors as catching a pretty good-sized fish.

(And, yes, I know, she's only been charged and is presumed, because this is America, innocent until proven otherwise.)

And yet, Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a politician/prosecutor who hasn't exactly shyed away from publicity, announced the charges not with a news conference but with a prepared statement and no further comment.

Contrast this with past big Kane press conferences to trash Gov. Corbett's proposed lottery privatization or announce her decision not to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban or announce charges brought one year ago today against a bunch of folks caught up in a Turnpike pay-to-play scandal.

But for Washington we have a press release.

So some in the aforementioned political arena wonder whether this low-key approach would apply if Democrat Kane, who clearly harbors ambition for future higher office, was announcing charges against a long-time incumbent white Republican male.

By not publicly talking about alleged criminality tied to a senior Democratic elected official from state Democrats' biggest, most reliable base, which is to say the oh-so-Democratic city of Philadelphia (and especially its African-American and women voters), Kane reduces risk of long-term resentment and slips past whispers from loyal locals of "oh, she's building her resume on the backs of her own."

(Trust me, there are those in both parties who think this way when it comes to playing to a political base.)

On the other hand, charges against Washington are so mundane, so routine and (given recent history in our so predictable Legislature) outright pathetic. Perhaps Kane is merely acting the proper prosecutor: here are the charges, let the process proceed.

So it seems what we have here is yet another case where you can use your politics to pick your side.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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