Attorney General Kathleen Kane's rejection of Gov. Corbett's attempt to privatize the state lottery risks being seen as a product of the partisan politics that subsume all good sense in Harrisburg.
But the Republican governor's questionable handling of the matter raised legitimate legal and policy questions long before the state's first elected Democratic attorney general came to town. Kane has done Pennsylvanians a service by standing in the way of Corbett's headlong, heedless quest to boost state gambling profits.
Kane, whose office reviews all state contracts, announced last week that the Corbett administration's agreement with the British lottery-management firm Camelot Global Services was illegal. She said it infringes on the legislature's authority over the lottery, expands gambling in ways not authorized by lawmakers, and would allow the company to claim certain expenses prohibited by the state constitution.
Corbett can blame himself for creating the conditions for such a legal and political rebuke. The governor avoided oversight by lawmakers during the months it took him to find and reach a contract with a private operator. And he ended up with a total of one corporate prospect, depriving the process of the benefits of competition.
Camelot promised to pump up the profits of the already successful lottery, which funds state services for senior citizens. The firm was expected to expand the pool of players by adding games, such as keno, and new places to play them, such as bars and the Internet. That raised questions about just how much more the government and its contractors should promote socially harmful gambling in the name of social programs.
It would have been easier to answer those questions if the governor had submitted his plan to meaningful legislative deliberation. With his own party controlling both houses, his failure to do so was cause for concern at the very least - even before the attorney general found that it also ran afoul of the law.
Moreover, it would have been easier to judge Camelot's proposal if there were anything to judge it against. A competitive bidding process that attracts only one bidder is, well, not a competitive bidding process.