Kane's Sandusky probe may have twist ending

ASSOCIATED PRESS Gov. Corbett: Re-election bid.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Gov. Corbett: Re-election bid.
Posted: January 14, 2014

SOMETIMES politics is a strange and twisted thing.

(OK, most times.)

Sometimes an issue can hang around so long, its impact on an officeholder reverses.

Think Obamacare. Or (probably) views of Gov. Chris Christie's style.

But can the same issue reverse itself on two officeholders in different ways?

Take the case of the state's long-finished investigation of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.

In 2012, an unknown former county prosecutor from Scranton rode anger over and suspicion about that multiyear probe into statewide office.

A key element of onetime Lackawanna County Assistant D.A. Kathleen Kane's election as attorney general was her masterful play on public emotion surrounding the Sandusky saga.

Her campaign pledge to conduct a full review of the state's handling of the case, why it took so long and, by implication, whether then-Attorney General Tom Corbett tinkered with it to assist his run for governor, got tons of attention.

(The state investigation of Sandusky began in early 2009. Corbett ran for governor in 2010. Sandusky was arrested in November 2011 and convicted in June 2012.)

Kane's pledge to probe the probe clearly helped her candidacy.

She won in November 2012 with 3.1 million votes, more than anyone on the ballot, including President Obama.

And her pledge clearly hurt Corbett in the short term and the long run.

A Quinnipiac University poll in June showed 58 percent of voters believing Corbett did not do enough to investigate Sandusky.

"Pennsylvanians think Gov. Tom Corbett fumbled the Sandusky probe," Q-poll assistant director Tim Malloy said at the time.

As Corbett seeks re-election the issue still hangs there. A new Q-poll just last month showed 50 percent of voters disapprove of his handling of "the Penn State situation."

How might this twist?

Kane was sworn in as attorney general one year ago this week.

In a Daily News interview at that time, she said she'd begin the Sandusky review at once and assign a full-time investigator to do nothing else.

(In February, she picked former federal prosecutor H. Geoffrey Moulton for the job.)

When asked about a timeline one year ago, she said she didn't know how long it would take but added, "I will guarantee you this, it will be done in a timely manner."

And today?

Last week, Kane spokesman Joe Peters said, "I don't see anything imminent . . . it will take as long as it takes."

So.

A twist could occur thusly: An issue that helped Democrat Kane and hurt Republican Corbett could turn on Kane and win sympathy for Corbett.

If she's viewed as holding it over him during his re-election bid or (if she finds anything) timing release for maximum impact on his re-election, she's seen as playing politics and any findings become suspect.

The longer it takes, the greater the chance that happens.

And since most folks are more than willing to believe the worst about politicians, it's just as likely voters who think Corbett played politics with Sandusky will think Kane played politics with Corbett.

I understand investigations take time. And Kane's internal probe has no power of subpoena, no grand jury since there's no known probable-cause suggesting Corbett did anything wrong.

Nor is there evidence that Kane's probe is politically timed.

But perception is a powerful thing. And this issue is morphing into an example of how politics can travel strange and twisted paths.

That is unless voters accept the notion that high-profile investigations (of anything or anyone) are conducted solely in the interest of the public good, free from political consideration.

Do you?


Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer

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