Contrary to what former Attorney General Kathleen Kane may believe, the latest revelation from a corruption sting involving state lawmakers does not vindicate her. But a claim that only Democratic lawmakers were targeted does underscore the need for future attorney generals to administer justice without fear or favor.
In a new court filing, an FBI special agent said undercover operative Tyron Ali told him that he was instructed by agents in the state Attorney General's Office not to target Republican lawmakers. If true, this is not a surprise, given the sad history of the state agency.
Former Attorney General Ernie Preate, a Republican, resigned in 1995 and served 14 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges of violating campaign finance laws.
Former Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican, was elected governor in November 2010 in part because he prosecuted some of the most powerful state lawmakers. But the so-called "Bonusgate" investigation was criticized because initially it targeted only Democrats. Eventually, several key GOP players were convicted, including former House Speaker John Perzel. Of the 22 convictions, 13 were Democrats and nine were Republicans. No Republicans in the Senate were convicted. Corbett denied that politics played a role in the probe, but the optics were not reassuring.
Kane, a Democrat, inherited the sting investigation involving Ali upon taking office in January 2014. She quickly shut down the case without bringing any charges even though several elected officials had been caught on tape accepting unreported cash.
The Inquirer broke a story in March 2014 that detailed Kane's decision to end the probe. At the time, she said her decision was based on the case being racially biased since all of the officials caught on tape were black.
Following the Inquirer report on Sunday, which disclosed that undercover operative Ali told the FBI agent that he had been instructed to steer clear of Republicans, Kane said it showed she was right to end the probe.
Not so. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams resurrected the investigation and eventually won four guilty pleas and a no-contest plea from the defendants - each of whom is African American and a Democrat. Obviously, no sting should target officials for their race or political affiliation. But that does not negate the wrongdoing that occurred.
Kane's decision to shut down the sting eventually led to her own conviction and resignation from office in August after she illegally leaked grand jury information to the Daily News, and then lied about it, in an effort to embarrass the prosecutor who she believed leaked the initial story to the Inquirer.
Kane said she had taken on the old boys' network in Harrisburg. She may have been right about the calcified, back-scratching bureaucracy, but her vindictive response only made matters worse and led to her own destruction.
If anything, the Ali sting; Bonusgate; the email porn scandal; the legislature's midnight pay raise, the legalization of casinos, and other less than exemplary behavior show that skullduggery is a bipartisan affair in Harrisburg. That should give Attorney General-elect Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, more incentive to ensure that neither race or politics influence prosecutions.