State & Local Politics

Pennsylvania corruption runs deep, Kane was the latest victim

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Pennsylvania has been in the national spotlight again this year. The Democrats held their convention in the Keystone State’s largest city. And again, Pennsylvania factors heavily in who will win the White House.

But Pennsylvania has made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, as political corruption scandals have again rocked the birthplace of American Democracy.

Kathleen Kane, the first Democratic woman to hold the office of state Attorney General, was recently found guilty of nine criminal charges to include perjury and criminal conspiracy, and her resignation from the Office of the Attorney General.

It’s nothing new in the Keystone State. Corruption in Pennsylvania runs deep.

Pennsylvania notoriously notched a spot in the top five of most corrupt states in the union in a 2014 study published by the American Society for Public Administration. The recent spate of malfeasance started in January 2015 with the guilty plea of State Representative J.P. Miranda. He was creating fictitious jobs in his office in order to put his sister on the payroll, as she couldn’t be employed under state nepotism laws.

Later in 2015, a lobbyist wore a wire while giving lavish gifts and gratuities to six Pennsylvania state representatives and traffic court judges to curry favor. Kane tried to close the case after the mountain of evidence gathered by her investigators was shown to her; thus creating the optics that she was attempting to make a case implicating numerous supporting members of the caucus that supported her election disappear.  Shortly thereafter, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams hired Frank Fina, the Deputy Attorney General who made that case, prosecuted it and received numerous guilty pleas in return.

Kane then retaliated against Fina by leaking grand jury evidence in a case involving Fina’s investigation of the former head of the Philadelphia NAACP. She believed Fina leaked the sting operation to the press.

During Kane’s trial, she attempted to mount a claim that she was being persecuted by an “old boys network”, and circulated a lewd exchange of ‘memes’ and other inappropriate emailed jokes by a myriad of state officials.  This did not aid in her defense but did serve to end the careers of two State Supreme Court justices who have since resigned.

If the inappropriate antics of state government weren’t enough, a six-to-seven year investigation by the FBI and US Attorney’s Office resulted in the conviction of powerful US Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA2) this summer on 22 counts of racketeering and bribery charges. This currently leaves one of the two Philadelphia Congressional Districts without a representative.

What was learned in examining the Fattah case was the intricate, organized culture of corruption that existed in Philadelphia. This culture does not occur in a vacuum, it grows when there is little concern with ethics and optics. This brings us to Philadelphia’s remaining representative, Congressman Bob Brady (D-PA1), who is also the chairman of the Democratic City Committee. He is attributed with running the local political machine and has supported financially and has endorsed many if not all of the corrupt officials mentioned in this article post indictment.

These corruption scandals and the investigation which result jolt the current political climate, one too partisan to provide proper oversight of public officials. Kane and Fattah’s political posturing under indictment for corruption are proof our fractured political system will always allow bad actors to make overt political pleas when faced with overwhelming evidence of malfeasance. The question going forward, is who, if anyone can hold these public officials accountable. The answer in Pennsylvania and across the country, has and will remain independent investigators freed from the election cycle and working outside of the partisan political climate.

One thing remains clear: Americans need to work together at all levels of government to assure that Philadelphia’s woes do not become a norm in our nation’s cities.    

A. Benjamin Mannes is a national subject matter expert in public safety. He serves as a member of the Peirce College Criminal Justice Studies Advisory Board in Philadelphia and is a Governor on the Executive Board of InfraGard, the FBI-coordinated public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection. Follow him on Twitter @PublicSafetySME


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Tags Bob Brady Corruption Pennsylvania scandals state politics

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