Baer: Will long-awaited release of report on porn-swapping public officials end "Porngate"?

Former Attorney General Kathleen Kane exposed the small network of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials trading pornographic and racially offensive material over state email servers two years ago.

Ok, folks, move along, nothing to see here.

Yes, at least 51 public servants are involved, including 13 judges or senior government officials, two police chiefs and at least one member of the Legislature.

Yes, they're tagged in a 50-page report, prepared for the Office of Attorney General, as sending or receiving pornographic or otherwise offensive emails on your time and your dime from 2008 through 2015.

But no names, please; and no worries, the Commonwealth remains afloat and there's "no evidence" the administration of justice is, has been or will be imperiled.

Whew, that's a relief, eh?

So I guess we all can go forward safe in the knowledge that our government and the money it spends on our behalf for such reports can keep us safe from any damage caused by the siren calls of Eros, Pan, Aphrodite or other gods and nymphs appealing to the baser instincts of those we pay to serve.

Except for a couple things.

The report, released Tuesday by interim Attorney General Bruce Beemer, was commissioned, as he put it, by "the previous attorney general" (she who shall not be named). So you just know it had to be good.

"I do not believe it was in the best interests of the citizens of Pennsylvania," Beemer said during a Capitol news conference.

He also called it a "poor use" of taxpayer money.

That would be $385,640 so far; with, according to Beemer, "substantial" legal bills from D.C. law firm BuckleySandler still outstanding and under review. A source close to the issue says the total could hit $1 million.

The report was honchoed by former Democratic Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, a BuckleySandler partner. Another partner billed you at $880 an-hour.

The firm was hired almost a year ago, well before she who shall not be named was convicted and sentenced for crimes related to all this (she's free on appeal).

It reviewed 6.4 million documents and emails. It found 11,930 "inappropriate" emails sent or received by government employees. It called 25 percent "obscene;"the rest "non-pornographic offensive language or images."

(Don't worry, though, it'll always be "Porngate," remembered for claiming two Supreme Court justices: Republican Michael Eakin; Democrat Seamus McCaffery.)

Problem is Beemer hates the report's methodology - which used search words tied to race, religion, sex and such – that turned up allegedly inappropriate emails without any context.

Examples cited include emails mentioning any religion or nationality and references to breast cancer detection.

The no-names call is Beemer's. And it's not because he's in the report. He says he isn't. He argues releasing names would "unfairly damage" reputations and open the Office of Attorney General and BuckleySandler to lawsuits.

He also says there were no crimes, no impact on cases, most offenders were non-lawyer support staff and the "vast majority" of emails are old.

(Media right-to-know requests have been filed for the names.)

Yet Beemer says, as a precaution, he'll refer judges in the report to the Judicial Conduct Board, lawyers to the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board and others to their employers.

And the notion some of this raises questions about judges and prosecutors and fair trials for citizens?

Well, the report says sexually-explicit and offensive emails between judges and district attorneys "demonstrate a fundamental and dangerous degree of impropriety that threatens public confidence in a fair and unbiased law enforcement and judicial system."

Empty high-priced rhetoric? A tribute to oft-asserted views of the previous attorney general? Who or what in this whole mess is to be believed?

Place your bets. It's your money.


baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer