Rep. Bob Brady, the Philadelphia Democratic Party chairman, recently stirred from his slumber to accuse Attorney General Kathleen Kane of being "asleep at the switch" when she spiked a corruption investigation involving five city Democrats. He said he lacks confidence in her fitness to serve as Pennsylvania's chief law enforcement official.
It's about time Brady publicly noted the scandal raging within his own party. Even though his comments were carefully constructed, open to multiple interpretations, and oblivious to his own responsibility, they suggested that the Democratic establishment is at least a little embarrassed by recent events. But if Brady and other party chieftains really cared about public confidence in their leadership, they could have done a lot more to show it.
The Inquirer revealed in March that Kane, a Democrat, had killed her predecessors' sting investigation of four Philadelphia state representatives and a Traffic Court judge, calling it "half-assed" and racially tainted. While the party's leadership ducked for cover, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams vigorously criticized Kane's failure to bring a case. She just about dared Williams to take it over, and he did. So far, he has secured a guilty plea from the former judge and filed charges against two of the state legislators.
As the drama unfolded, the Democratic machine could have offered residents quick relief by abandoning representatives who have done little more than pick up their $84,000-a-year paychecks while allegedly taking money from an undercover informant. But the party stood by them. Most of the officials implicated didn't face opposition from their fellow Democrats or from Republicans in this year's elections.
The sting controversy unfolded as nine judges and an administrator were pleading guilty or preparing their defenses against charges of rampant ticket-fixing in Philadelphia's Traffic Court. City Democrats ran the court as a family business, dispensing leniency for the politically connected and letting dangerous drivers stay on the roads. One clerk testified that Brady's staff made some of the requests to have tickets fixed, an allegation the congressman has denied.
While the Traffic Court and sting sagas should have forced the party leadership to clean up its act, there is little evidence that Brady has done more than lash out at Kane.