Seth Williams’ Month Just Got Even Worse

Did the district attorney's spokesman violate the city's political activity ban?

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

District Attorney Seth Williams | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is having a heck of a bad month.

Just over a week ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a federal grand jury is looking into the possibility that Williams used campaign contributions to pay for personal items. Then the state Supreme Court unsealed a batch of pornographic, misogynistic emails that were forwarded and received by Williams’ employee, Frank Fina, when he previously worked in the Attorney General’s office. On Friday morning, the Philadelphia Daily News called the turn of events “Seth Williams’ summer of discontent.”

And then things got worse for Williams. On Friday afternoon, NewsWorks reported that Cameron Kline, Williams’ spokesman, “has resigned his board membership in a Democratic LGBT group following a complaint from a city Republican official about his political activity.” Ed McCann, Philadelphia’s first assistant district attorney, also told NewsWorks that Kline is meeting with the city’s Ethics Board Monday to discuss the matter.

Kline was on the board of the Liberty City Democratic Club, from which he issued a press release Wednesday slamming Republican mayoral nominee Melissa Murray Bailey for accepting a campaign contribution from Andrew Terhune. The club said Terhune “repeatedly posted homophobic statements online.”

The problem? The city’s Republican Party on Thursday said Kline violated the city’s political activity ban. The fact that the District Attorney’s office is taking the issue seriously suggests the GOP may be right.

Here’s exactly what the city’s ban on political activity says:

No appointed officer or employee of the City shall be a member of any national, state or local committee of a political party, or an officer or member of a committee of a partisan political club, or take any part in the management or affairs of any political party or in any political campaign, except to exercise his right as a citizen privately to express his opinion and to cast his vote.

To be fair, Williams’ office seems to be doing everything right to fix this potential ethical problem — Kline has resigned from the Liberty City Democratic Club and scheduled a meeting with the Ethics Board. That’s not just right in the moral sense, but also in the political one: The Ethics Board usually goes easier on employees who cooperate with the agency.

But this just comes at an awful time for Williams, who before this month was extracting guilty pleas from state lawmakers and being discussed as a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.