State Attorney General Kathleen Kane has hired one of the most feared litigators in the region, Richard A. Sprague, to represent her in possible defamation suits arising from accounts of her decision to end an undercover investigation that taped at least five Philadelphia Democrats accepting cash or gifts.
Defamation suits involving public officials are extremely difficult to win. This might be an attempt to tie up reporters and newspapers in court and bankrupt them.
Sprague said he would launch an investigation into the conduct of the prosecutors who ran that sting operation, which began in 2010 before Kane took office,
During the meeting, Sprague suggested that The Inquirer may have been used by the sources of its stories – “wittingly or unwittingly” as a “weapon” to attack Kane to defend themselves from potential charges of wrongdoing in the management of the probe.
“I intend to look at the investigation from the very beginning to the conclusion of it, and in terms of what has been published, by this paper and others, to take appropriate action on behalf of the attorney general against those responsible for the defamatory and the false publications that have been made,” Sprague said.
While Kane has sharply criticized the sting, its supporters say the investigation was a solid probe brought by veteran prosecutors with a history of winning corruption cases against Democrats and Republicans alike.
This is a curious case on which to hang one’s career. While the investigators reportedly offered bribes to Republicans and Democrats, only Democrats took the bait. In defending her actions, Kane has played both the race card and the gender card. That carries more than a whiff of partisan motivations.
Now Kane is going after the career investigators who ran the operation, and the Philly Inquirer for reporting on it after she quashed it. The question has to be asked, is Kane merely covering for her party, or for some specific individuals within her party? If it’s the latter, obstruction of justice might be on the table.
For what it’s worth, Pennsylvania’s constitution does allow for impeaching officials deemed to have committed misbehavior in office. Attacking the press via lawfare might, if Kane intends to push much farther, rise to that level. Obstruction of justice could as well.
Republicans currently control both houses of the PA legislature. Democrat Kane might want to re-think this whole thing.