It seemed like around every corner at the state capitol complex, Tuesday, was a Democrat taking the oath of office. Hundreds filled the rotunda and spilled into the hallways to catch a glimpse of Kathleen Kane being sworn-in as the first Democrat and the first woman elected Attorney General in PA.
“I’m proud, I’m excited and I’m just thrilled that everyone came out to support us the way that they did,” Kane told reporters afterward. “It wasn’t just the election, they’re here today too.” Kane has vowed to launch an investigation of the way the Jerry Sandusky case was handled at the AG’s office, and says she’s close to naming a Special Deputy Attorney General whose sole job will be that probe.
Across the street at the Pennsylvania State Museum, Eugene DePasquale became the state’s independent fiscal watchdog when he took the oath of office as Auditor General. He’ll start by reviewing internal operations to ensure everything is running efficiently. “I think it is entirely wrong to go out and start banging away at other agencies, and saying they need to become more efficient, if we’re not going to look at ourselves as well,” DePasquale said in his inaugural address.
While DePasquale is the first York County resident to hold statewide office since Governor George Leader in the 1950s, he’s downplaying any historical significance. “That’s kind of some fun talk, but – at the end of the day – if you do your job people will remember you well, if you don’t do your job they won’t.”
Both DePasquale and Kane are serving in new positions, but Treasurer Rob McCord took the oath of office for a second time on Tuesday. Looking ahead to his second term, McCord says he will continue to find innovative ways to save and make money for the people of Pennsylvania. Under his watch, McCord says, the Treasury has produced $1.6-billion dollars in investment returns and averted $300-million dollars in erroneous state payments.
For the first time, Pennsylvania Democrats have swept the three state row offices on election night. Kathleen Kane has been elected Attorney General; Eugene DePasquale will be the next Auditor General; and Treasurer Rob McCord was re-elected to a second term.
Kane’s victory is particularly historic. She becomes not only the first Democrat to be elected Attorney General since it became an elected office in 1980, but also the first woman selected for the post by voters. Two women have served as Attorney General, but both were appointed, including Linda Kelly who is currently serving out the remaining term of Tom Corbett.
DePasquale defeated fellow State Representative John Maher to become Auditor General and McCord bested Republican challenger Diane Irey Vaughan in the Treasurer’s race.
Two candidates vying to become the state’s top prosecutor will debate in suburban Harrisburg tonight. The Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) and Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents’ Association (PLCA) have teamed up to host the forum at the Widener School of Law’s Harrisburg campus.
Democrat Kathleen Kane is a prosecutor from northeastern Pennsylvania, and Republican David Freed is currently the Cumberland County District Attorney. The attorney general’s office is an open seat this year as Linda Kelly agreed not to seek election when she was nominated to fill out the unexpired term of now-Governor Tom Corbett.
The public is invited to attend tonight’s debate, which will take place in room A180 of the Law School Administration Building. Doors open at 6pm, and the debate begins at 7pm. If you can’t make it in person, the event will be broadcast live on PCN TV.
Pennsylvania has never elected a Democrat to be state Attorney General. Pennsylvania has never elected a woman to be state Attorney General. With one more victory in November, Kathleen Kane could invalidate both of those statements in one fell swoop.
Kane won the Democratic nomination for Attorney General on Tuesday, coming out on top in a bitter campaign against former Congressman Patrick Murphy. A heated ad war highlighted the rough and tumble election, making it one of the most widely watched races as the returns came in on Tuesday evening. Kane led all the way on Tuesday and with more than 99% of precincts statewide reporting, she had taken the win by more than 40,000 votes. Kane will move on to face Republican David Freed in November. Freed is Cumberland County’s District Attorney.
Patrick Murphy grew up in a law enforcement family in Philadelphia, and joined the Army at the age of 19. “Most of the time I was a military prosecutor, prosecuting serious criminals in New York and North Carolina,” Murphy says of his military career. He twice deployed overseas, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
A 2006 grassroots campaign landed Murphy in Congress, where he led the fight to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In 2010 Murphy lost his Bucks County seat to Mike Fitzpatrick – the same man he defeated two terms earlier.
Murphy has been practicing and teaching law for the past few years, and tells us he’s ready to stand up for what is right as Attorney General. “You’ve got to fight crime wherever it happens,” Murphy tells us, “whether that crime happens on the street, in the corporate boardroom or in the halls of Harrisburg.”
This too is a grassroots campaign for Murphy, who’s been traveling the state in the weeks leading up to the April 24th primary election. “I’ve put 47,000 miles on my car, I literally have holes in my shoes right now,” he says.
If the Democratic candidate is elected in November – whether it’s Murphy or Kathleen Kane – it would be history making, as no Democratic has ever been “elected” Attorney General in Pennsylvania. It became an elected office in 1980.
Murphy says he would aggressively crackdown on environmental crimes, consumer protection issues and sex predators. “I’m going to do what’s right every single time.”
You can hear portions of our interview with Patrick Murphy on Radio Pennsylvania Roundtable. Radio PA has also reached out to Democrat Kathleen Kane’s campaign.
The allegations against 67-year-old Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator at Penn State, span roughly a decade from the late 1990s through 2009. The 23-page grand jury presentment goes into graphic detail of the alleged sexual assaults of young boys, both while Sandusky was coaching and after his retirement. Attorney General Linda Kelly says they’ve identified six of the eight young victims discussed in the presentment, all of whom Sandusky met through his involvement in The Second Mile, a charity he founded in 1977.
Equally significant to the sexual assault charges Sandusky faces, Kelly says, are the alleged roles of two school administrators charged with perjury and failure to report. “Their inaction likely allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many many years,” Kelly says.
Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Shultz each face one count of perjury and one count of failure to report.
“This is not a case about football, it’s not a case about universities,” says State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, “It’s a case about children who have had their innocence stolen from them, and a culture that did nothing to stop it.”
While Sandusky will be prosecuted in Centre County, where the alleged assaults took place, Curley and Shultz will be prosecuted in Dauphin County, where the alleged perjury took place. Both were arraigned in a suburban Harrisburg magistrate’s office Monday afternoon.
Curley’s lawyer, Caroline Roberto, proclaimed her client innocent and says they will vigorously fight the charges in court. She calls perjury prosecutors’ charge of last resort. “They charge it when they can’t prove the person did anything wrong.” Roberto calls the duty to report charge a summary offense, similar to a speeding ticket. Under the law, Roberto says the duty to report didn’t even apply to the situation at Penn State.
The Attorney General’s office disagrees. “Given the circumstances here, with information that was provided to top administrators about a sexual assault in the locker room, on the Penn State campus, we feel very confident that those administrators are responsible under the law,” says spokesman Nils Frederiksen.
Paterno Not a Target:
Asked about coach Joe Paterno’s grand jury testimony, Attorney General Linda Kelly says the 84-year-old coach has been cooperative and is not a target at this point. The grand jury report indicates that a grad student who witnessed a sexual assault in 2002 called Paterno to share what he had seen. “We believe that under the statute he had an obligation to report it to school administrators, and he did that,” Kelly says of Paterno’s involvement.
In a statement, Paterno says he’s shocked and saddened by the allegations contained in the grand jury report. “I understand that people are upset and angry, but let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold,” the statement reads. “In the meantime, I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.”
Flanked by two attorneys and wearing a dark blue suit, former Speaker of the House John Perzel stood in front of Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis, Wednesday, to enter his guilty plea. The Philadelphia Republican did not speak to reporters as he entered or left the third floor courtroom, but he did release a written statement.
It reads: “…The truth is that as the legislative leader of my caucus, I oversaw the spending of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, and I bear the responsibility for the improprieties that occurred in the spending of those dollars.” Perzel also expressed regret for his actions. “You had a right to expect better from me, and I am sorry I let you down,” the statement concludes.
Perzel pleaded guilty to 8 of 82-charges that were leveled against him in 2009. They range from conflict of interest, to theft, to conspiracy. He could face a maximum of 24-years behind bars, but the standard minimum sentence is 18 – 50-months. The charges also carry $50,000 dollars in fines.
“Whenever we have somebody of this responsibility and this position stepping forward and pleading guilty, and taking responsibility for illegal conduct, I think it is an important event,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina told a tightly-packed gaggle of reporters. Fina says the plea agreement includes Perzel’s cooperation – and likely testimony – as the political corruption cases proceed.
A former Perzel aide was also in the courtroom, Wednesday, to plead guilty. It brings to five the number of guilty pleas out of the 10- Republican House members and staffers who were charged in the second round of the “Bonusgate” investigation. The political corruption probe also indicted 15-Democrats in phases I and III of the investigation.
A 188- page grand jury presentment from November of 2009 concluded that Perzel was the mastermind of a sophisticated scheme that spent more than $10-million taxpayer dollars for campaign work.
Political activist Gene Stilp of Taxpayers and Ratepayers United thinks Perzel’s guilty plea breathes new life into the ongoing political corruption investigation. “If he cooperates with the prosecution, many people in the House and the Senate should be worried,” Stilp says.
The state Senate voted to confirm several appointees on Monday, most notably giving a positive nod to Governor Tom Corbett’s choice to replace him as Pennsylvania Attorney General. Linda Kelly was confirmed on a unanimous 50-0 vote and will finish out the remaining 20 months of the term.
The office became vacant when former Attorney General Tom Corbett was elected Governor last year. At the time of the governor’s inauguration, the post was filled on an interim basis by 1st Deputy Attorney General William Ryan. Ryan has served as acting Attorney General for a little more than 4 months.
Kelly’s background includes stints with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office and the office of U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania during a 30+ year career as a prosecutor.
With Senate confirmation, Linda Kelly becomes only the 2nd woman to hold the office in Pennsylvania’s history. She has promised not to run for election to the office in 2012, a contributing factor to her easy nomination process.
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