HARRISBURG - A House panel deciding whether to impeach Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane voted Tuesday to begin issuing subpoenas for internal documents and witness testimony.
The Subcommittee on Courts, tasked with investigating if Kane's conduct in office warrants impeachment, also requested authority from the chamber's Judiciary Committee to seek protection orders for potential witnesses who fear retaliation, and use outside counsel to defend any challenges to its subpoenas. That authorization has yet to occur.
The committee is expected to gather information through the summer.
"I do think there is merit to continue to investigate," said Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery), the subcommittee's chairman.
Kane, 49, a Democrat, awaits an Aug. 8 trial on charges she leaked confidential information to exact revenge on a critic, then lied about it when later questioned under oath. She has pleaded not guilty.
She is not running for reelection and will leave office when her term ends in January.
In a statement Tuesday, Kane's top deputy, Bruce L. Castor Jr., said, "It was my hope that the House subcommittee would allow Pennsylvania's justice system to do its job. . . . It seems to me that proceeding with the impeachment process could only be designed to influence prospective jurors or voters. We will have a new attorney general in six months. Why spend the money?"
In the past, Kane has denounced the subcommittee's work, suggesting that it is part of a conspiracy to attempt to silence her efforts to expose pornographic and other offensive emails exchanged by judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and others.
Last fall, the Senate launched hearings to explore if Kane, whose law license is suspended pending the trial, should be removed from her post as the state's highest-ranking law enforcement official.
The state constitution requires that the attorney general be a member of the bar, although it does not address what should happen should an attorney general's law license be suspended.
Kane has called the Senate process unconstitutional. At the time, she said the only legal way to remove her is through impeachment, a much lengthier process that requires an investigation in the House, and then a trial before the Senate.
The Senate effort to remove Kane was unsuccessful.
The scope of the House panel's work is broader. It is investigating whether Kane engaged in any misconduct while in office.
In her criminal case, prosecutors allege Kane leaked confidential information - and then lied about it under oath - as retaliation against a former prosecutor in her office whom she blamed for negative news reports.
Over the last 15 months, the attorney general has also been sued by a half-dozen former employees who allege they were fired for malicious reasons or singled out for public embarrassment as a means of revenge.