Saturday, July 13, 2013

Kane Refuses to Do Her Job

Pennsylvania's Democratic Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, is refusing to do her job, according to a former AG.

Specifically, there is a lawsuit that names AG Kane dealing with gay marriage.  She is named because, as Attorney General, it is her job to defend Pennsylvania's laws from challenge and that is exactly what the lawsuit seeks - to overturn Pennsylvania's law banning gay marriage. 

Instead, Kane is punting to former AG Corbett and asking him to defend the law as Governor.

The office of Attorney General was made an independent office in 1980 by the Commonwealth Attorneys Act. Prior to that, the office was appointed and the duties of the office holder were largely determined by the governor that appointed him or her.

Recognizing that the formerly-appointed office received its direction and duties from the Governor, the act also detailed the responsibilities of the new AG. 

By way of background, this is the same set of laws that AG Kane presumably relied on to reject Governor Corbett's privatization of the lottery system in PA.  Since she wouldn't answer questions (unless given to her in writing) it is difficult to determine specifically where she believed the authority was derived to reject the bid but it likely included Section 204 of the Commonwealth Attorneys Act.  This section authorizes the AG to review rules and regulations.  This is also the same section that states:
"It shall be the duty of the Attorney General to uphold and defend the constitutionality of all statues so as to prevent their suspension or abrogation in the absence of a controlling decision by a court of competent jurisdiction."
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision is not a controlling decision on Pennsylvania's  ban on gay marriage.  Instead, it had a very limited scope dealing with federal law and federal benefits, leaving her with little cover if that is her excuse.

And, when a law contains the word "shall" it is an explicit order to comply.  It doesn't say "should" or "may."

Instead of doing her job as defined by an act which she is clearly and undeniably familiar with, a pattern of playing politics may be emerging.

She filed charges against a Republican candidate for office just days before a contested primary election despite having months to prepare those charges.  

After making campaign promises to make reviewing Tom Corbett's prosecution of the Sandusky case a priority and appointing someone to oversee the investigation in February, she still hasn't completed it leaving political observers to wonder if she is waiting to drop it during Corbett's re-election campaign. 

Now, she is refusing to do her job as it relates to a politically sensitive lawsuit.

With actions like these in just the first few months of her administration, it wouldn't be terribly surprising if she started taking transparently political actions to diminish the appearance of hack partisanship.  Something along the lines of announcing the hiring of a prominent Republican, finding something safe to agree with Corbett on and publicizing the heck out of it, or going after a prominent Democrat.

The IRS persecution of conservative groups has demonstrated the lengths to which a government can go to enforce politics with the brutal force of official power. 

Pennsylvania deserves better. 

If Kathleen Kane doesn't want to do her job, as described by the very act that created her position, she should resign.  Absent her immediate resignation, she should quickly reverse course, honor her oath of office, and fulfill her duty as Attorney General to defend the laws of the Commonwealth.

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