Fear of an "Elliot Spitzer-esque" crusade by Democrat Kathleen Kane has helped convince the states' biggest business organizations to back her Republican challenger in the race to be Pennsylvania's next attorney general.
Pennsylvania Business Council CEO David Patti told Capitolwire.com that he is concerned that Kane will use the power of the office to pursue businesses, gas drillers in particular.
“We said, ‘oh good God, here’s another Eliot Spitzer,’” Patti said about Kane. If she’s elected, he said the business community fears a “crusade based on politics and preconceived notions, not experience.”
Patti was referring to the former New York governor, dubbed the "sheriff of Wall Street" who in 2002 used that state's securities law to investigate Merrill Lynch, the world's largest securities firm, among other top Wall St. firms.
For her part, Kane - who is leading in the polls - says she will be fair to businesses.
“I don’t think there’s need for concern. I understand the need for businesses. I understand the need for jobs,” Kane said in an interview with the online news service on Monday. “As you all know from the primary, my husband has a large company and people depend on those jobs … I’m all for business thriving in Pennsylvania. I just want to be fair to consumers, that’s all.”
Kane's challenger, Cumberland County district attorney David Freed, said he see the Consumer Protection Act as a "shield" to protest consumers, not a "sword" go after businesses.
"I tell people I think the philosophy of the attorney general has a tremendous say about the regulatory environment in the state," said Freed during the race's only debate last week. "I also say the job of the attorney general is to keep a level playing field.”
In the same debate, Kane, a former assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County, said she too believes in a "level playing field."
"We have to protect consumers just as much as we protect businesses in the commonwealth who are doing the right thing and following the regulations and the law to compete fairly in the market against a company that is not following the regulations,” she said.
Under Pennsylvania law state the attorney general the authority to pursue civil, cases involving unfair or deceptive business practices.
Patti noted statements Kane made about unknown chemicals used in the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling process being pumped into the ground. He characterized her view on gas drilling as "guilty until proven innocent."
In April, she told the Morning Call of Allentown that the gas companies are pumping chemicals underground that are "poisoning our water and harming our children."
"I would fight to ensure this process is stopped," she said, "and that those companies that destroy our environment are held accountable.”
In Pennsylvania the attorney general does not have the authority to independently prosecute environmental violators and may only take action if cases are referred to them by the local district attorney or the Department of Environmental Protection.
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