Pa. Senate Moves Closer to Kane Removal; Kane Vows Porngate Crusade

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks with members of the media after her arrangement before a district judge, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in Collegeville, Pa. Prosecutors added a new perjury count and other criminal charges Thursday against Kane, saying they found a signed document that contradicts her claims she never agreed to maintain secrecy of a grand jury investigation in 2009, before she took office. The Montgomery County district attorney charged her with felony perjury and two misdemeanors — false swearing and obstruction — based on a signed secrecy oath she signed shortly after taking office in early 2013.


A bipartisan committee has ruled the Pennsylvania Senate does have the power to remove Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office, and urged that body to move forward with a hearing investigating the possibility. The committee, which voted 5-2 on the ruling posted on the Senate website earlier today, did not recommend if Kane should be removed from office.

Kane, a Democrat, had her law license suspended in September after she was indicted on perjury and conspiracy charges this summer. Gov. Tom Wolf supported the Senate panel inquiry, and has said in the past he wants Kane to step down from office.

Kane has said she will not resign from office, and that the suspension of her law license does not impede her ability to do her job. Law professors told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette they wondered if Kane could effectively do her job without a license. Read more »

Pa. Senate Votes to Block Syrian Refugees

State Capitol in Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a resolution today that calls for a ban on Syrian refugees in the state. This is a rebuke to Gov. Tom Wolf, who said after the attacks in Paris that refugees fleeing war-torn Syria were welcome in Pennsylvania.

The vote, which passed by an overwhelming 37-13 margin, is completely symbolic: It requires no action. And since immigration law is federal —according to the Refugee Act of 1980 states do not have the power to reject refugees — even Wolf’s welcoming gesture is symbolic.

Several local lawmakers, including state senators Anthony Williams and Daylin Leach, spoke out against the measure. Williams attempted to table the resolution today, but it failed. “The Home of the Brave should lead the world in accepting refugees,” Leach said. Read more »

City Council Members: “Porngate” Prosecutors Should Resign

The binder of Porngate emails, available at the Supreme Court Office of Prothonotary at City Hall. | Joel Mathis

The binder of Porngate emails, available at the Supreme Court Office of Prothonotary at City Hall. | Joel Mathis

Nine members of Philadelphia City Council signed a resolution calling for the resignation of three city prosecutors involved in the Porngate email scandal. The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who was one of the leaders of a press conference of City Councilwomen last week.

In addition to Bass, Jannie Blackwell, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Wilson Goode Jr., William Greenlee, Kenyatta Johnson, Curtis Jones Jr., Marian Tasco, and Maria Quinones Sanchez signed on to the resolution. The full City Council will vote for it next week; with the support of that many members, it will pass.

They join State Sen. Anthony Williams, Democratic Senate candidate Katie McGinty and even Milton Street in calling for the jobs of city prosecutors Patrick Blessington, E. Marc Costanzo and Frank Fina. The three worked for the state when they received emails on state accounts from colleagues that many have deemed pornographic and/or offensive.

Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams has said the three have been disciplined, and ordered to undergo sensitivity training; Williams said only Fina sent such emails.

“Who conducted it? When was it conducted? What kind of training was it?” Bass told City Council today. “These are all very valid questions that the citizens of the city of Philadelphia want to have answered. And we call on our district attorney to do the right thing and tell us.”

Williams talked to Citified’s Holly Otterbein about Porngate in September. “I know Frank Fina and Pat Blessington and Marc Costanzo,” he told her. “Could they in the heart of their hearts have things I don’t know? Yeah, I don’t know what’s in the heart of everyone. But from what they demonstrated as employees here, from their work product, from people who go to lunch with them, from people reviewing their emails here, I can safely say that I think that they can operate and be productive and add to the District Attorney’s office here in Philadelphia as we try to mete out justice for everybody.”

In state-level developments in the porngate scandal, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin called for the Judicial Conduct Board to wrap up its investigation and forward the case directly to the Court of Judicial Discipline. (JCB investigates ethics violations and files charges; CJD decides cult or innocence, and imposes punishment.)

Eakin was the “John Smith” who received pornographic and offensive emails. After the Daily News reported he was a friend who helped out Eakin’s re-election bid, JCB chief counsel Robert Graci stepped aside from the investigation.

“In an effort to alleviate any mistrust of the process, I have asked the Judicial Conduct Board to forgo further deliberation of this matter, and remove the matter to the Court of Judicial Discipline immediately,” Eakin said in a statement. “The Board’s process is set forth in the Constitution and involves confidentiality, which has led to unfortunate and wholly misguided accusations against the integrity of its process, as well as the integrity of the Board’s members and staff.

“The CJD, however, is not bound by the same strictures and allows a fuller airing of the facts before a dispassionate body, which will have the opportunity to express without hyperbole the reasoning behind whatever result the Court may reach. It is my fervent hope that advancing the Constitutional procedure will in the end assure public confidence in the process, and its result.”

Pa. House Speaker Has ‘Boehner-Like Breakdown’ Over Medical Marijuana

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, speaks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

A poll in June showed 87 percent of Pennsylvania registered voters support medical marijuana. So most of the state is OK with marijuana use if a doctor recommends it. But some people against medical marijuana use are really against it.

Take Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai. According to Jan Murphy in The Patriot-News, medical marijuana brought Turzai to tears. A source tells her he had a “John Boehner-like breakdown,” referencing the former Speaker of the House (federal version) who is known for crying. Read more »

Katie McGinty Calls on D.A. Seth Williams to Fire “Porngate” Lawyers

Businesswoman and former DEP Secretary Katie McGinty has run a solid campaign, building a network and achieving fundraising success. But most important, she, unlike opponents Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord, stayed away from attacking Wolf. Given that, combined with Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s implosion and much of the Democratic establishment disliking former congressman Joe Sestak, watch for the articulate McGinty to quickly become the frontrunner against freshman Pat Toomey in 2016.

Katie McGinty

U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty on Wednesday waded into the “Porngate” controversy, calling on Philadelphia’s top prosecutor, Seth Williams, to fire scandal-tarred lawyers in his office and saying that a state Supreme Court justice should resign over the matter.

“As a woman and the mother of three girls, I am appalled by the misogynistic, homophobic, and racist messages that were sent by these officials,” McGinty, a Democrat, said in a series of early afternoon tweets on the issue.

Read more »

Wolf, GOP Battle Over Refugees

Photos: Associated Press

Photos: Associated Press

Good morning, Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know today:

Harrisburg Republicans are unhappy with Gov. Tom Wolf’s welcome to Syrian refugees — but he’s got Ed Rendell’s support.

“Republican lawmakers are pressuring Gov. Tom Wolf to stop accepting Syrian refugees in Pennsylvania out of fear that deadly terrorists attacks like those in Paris will happen here,” PennLive reports. “The governor has to realize this could be a life and death situation with radicals,” said Rep. Ron Marsico. “The danger is real and the safety of Pennsylvanians is at serious risk.” Wolf’s response? He couldn’t keep them out, even if he wanted to. “Despite the implication of some, states do not have the authority to refuse to accept refugees that are admitted by the federal government.”

Ed Rendell, talking on Rich Zeoli’s radio show, defended Wolf: “Remember who these people are. These are people who fled ISIS. They fought ISIS. When ISIS started rampaging in their country, they fled. I think it’s fair to assume that they’re not ISIS sympathizers. Now, would I be worried that some people who once the announcement was made that we’re taking people, that some people would try to jump in and get into the group? Sure. But people who fled and have been in refugee camps for six months, nine months, a year, I think it’s fair to assume that they hate ISIS too.” Read more »

In Refugee Crisis, Tom Wolf Reminds Us He Was the Right Choice

Democratic party candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, left, and republican Gov. Tom Corbett before a debate at the WTAE-TV studio in Wilkinsburg, Pa. on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Rodney Johnson,WTAE-TV, Pool)

Tom Wolf challenged Gov. Tom Corbett for office last year. Wolf won.

Well, good for Gov. Tom Wolf.

It hasn’t been an easy rookie year for Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor. He’s been faced with a Republican-controlled legislature that has goals pretty much the opposite of his, with the result that the annual budget — due in June — is still unfinished. He’s taken (ahem) a little bit of flack for that.

But on Monday, he made me glad he’s our governor. Read more »

Now, More Than Ever, Pennsylvania Should Welcome Syrian Refugees

25-year-old Zachariah Kwirah (right), a factory worker from Syria, said he was almost separated from his family of three babies, two sisters and mother-in-law at a Serbian processing camp. Issue date: Monday November 16, 2015. Photo credit should read: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

25-year-old Zachariah Kwirah (right), a factory worker from Syria, said he was almost separated from his family of three babies, two sisters and mother-in-law at a Serbian processing camp. (Michael McHugh/PA Wire)

One by one, United States governors promised to close their states’ borders to Syrian refugees yesterday.

Recycling the usual lines about immigrants and fueled by the tragedy in Paris, a total of 25 Republican governors and one Democrat – oh hi there, Maggie Hassan – were presumably reacting to news that one of the attackers used a Syrian passport to enter Europe. (They also, presumably, stopped reading by the time it was reported that the passport was fake.) Senators piled on, and GOP presidential candidates were only too happy to chime in.

I’m sure Donald Trump had something to say, but as I’m writing this, the sun is just barely up. There’s a bird chirping in my backyard and a bagel on the horizon. Any minute the heat is going to kick on and my feet will feel like toasty little s’mores. At this point, for all I know Tuesday will be full of hope and promise and corgi stampedes. I will Google Trump’s comments for you, but I will not read them. Not yet.

Instead, let’s kick it over to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Tom, what say you, keeping in mind that the day has not gone to shit just yet? Read more »

Obama, Wolf Say Syrian Refugees Welcome

President Obama speaks during a press conference in Turkey. (

President Obama speaks during a press conference in Turkey. (

In the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, President Obama and Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf said today that the nation — and state — will continue to accept refugees from war-torn Syria.

They promised, however, that the open-door policy would be accompanied with an eye on security.

“Even as we accept more refugees, including Syrians, we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks,” Obama said in a press conference in Turkey. “We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves, that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the doors in their faces would be a betrayal of our values.” Read more »

Tom Wolf Defends His Choices in Pennsylvania Budget Standoff

 Gov. Tom Wolf arrives for a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, at the Southport Marine Terminal Complex in Philadelphia.

Gov. Tom Wolf arrives for a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, at the Southport Marine Terminal Complex in Philadelphia.

Tom Wolf wants you to know he’s not overly stubborn. He wants you to know he’s fighting for the right things. He wants you to know that he can, in fact, govern the state of Pennsylvania.

Or, at least, he wants me to know.

You might remember that about three weeks ago, I wrote a column with the headline, “No, Tom Wolf Can’t Govern Pennsylvania.” I basically argued that the state’s budget standoff had gone on too long, and that it was time for the governor to make some compromises, accept a “half a loaf” victory, get a budget passed, and move on.

The column wasn’t greeted well in Harrisburg. I got a call from the governor’s spokesman about an hour after it published at, and he gave me an earful. And that, I figured, was probably that.  Read more »

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