Kathleen Kane’s Morally Flexible New Crisis Manager

Meet Lanny Davis, "a kind of front man for the dark side."

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Mathis made a strong case yesterday that Attorney General Kathleen Kane is being treated unfairly. That’s clearly Kane’s point of view, and she’s hired none other than Lanny Davis to make the case for her.

If Davis’ name sounds familiar, it should. Hiring Davis may actually be a bigger sign of just how much trouble Kane is in than the reports of looming Grand Jury charges against the attorney general. Seriously.

Davis helped defend President Bill Clinton from impeachment. He also stepped in for Penn State, post-Sandusky, and for Martha Stewart. He’s even (the skin crawls) represented Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins. Oh, and the dictators. Don’t forget the dictators.

From a 2010 New York Times profile of Davis:

Since leaving the White House, Mr. Davis has built a client list that now includes coup supporters in Honduras, a dictator in Equatorial Guinea, for-profit colleges accused of exploiting students, and a company that dominates the manufacture of additives for infant formula. This month, he agreed to represent the Ivory Coast strongman whose claims to that country’s presidency have been condemned by the international community and may even set off a civil war.

Mr. Davis withdrew from his $100,000-a-month contract with Ivory Coast on Wednesday night, saying that the embattled government refused to accept his suggestion to talk to President Obama. Still, his role in West Africa has stoked growing criticism that Mr. Davis has become a kind of front man for the dark side, willing to take on some of the world’s least noble companies and causes.

Many lobbying firms have clients with checkered records. Indeed, those are the people who need help the most in Washington. But many activists — and even some government officials — said the list of clients in Mr. Davis’s firm stood out.

“You look at who he represents, and the list is just almost unseemly, tawdry,” said Meredith McGehee, a lobbyist for California WIC Association, which represents agencies that serve poor women with infant children, and who faced off against Mr. Davis this year in the fight over baby formula, which his client won. “It is an illustration of what most of the American people think of as wrong with Washington.”

Davis has defended his work and suggested that his connection to dictators has been overblown. It’s not clear those explanations have changed perceptions of Davis. Consider this Washington Post profile of Davis from October, 2013.

And he dismayed a few people in the news media, whom he schmoozes with regularly, when he went to bat for Snyder’s defamation lawsuit against the Washington City Paper in 2011.

Michael Schaffer, the former City Paper editor, said Davis’s arrival as Snyder’s adviser in that case was itself a boost for the paper. “For anyone on the other side of a [PR battle], there’s a nice thing about having their opponent engage Davis because it enables them to say, ‘See! My opponent is hiring a guy who has represented Third World dictators,’ ” said Schaffer.

Davis is a fierce and often effective advocate for his clients. It’s just not always clear those strengths are worth the downside of being associated with his client list.