Abandoned Sting Leads to State Ethics Commission Complaint

Kathleen Kane won't pursue criminal charges, but Philly Dems could still be in trouble.

Philly Democrats caught on tape accepting cash from a confidential informant for investigators aren’t out of the woods yet. No, Attorney General Kathleen Kane isn’t pursuing charges, and neither are the feds. But “citizen activist” Gene Stilp on Tuesday filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission, the Patriot-News reports.

Stilp, who is himself seeking election to Dauphin County’s 103rd legislative district this fall, asked the commission to launch a formal investigation into the payments to determine whether there were any violations of the state’s Ethics Code.

If the Ethics Commission decides to take up Stilp’s complaint, the lawmakers involved would be subject to scrutiny for violations ranging from failing to properly account for gifts, to using their office for personal enrichment.

The commission can only issue fines and order restitution, but it, ironically enough in a case where an aborted criminal investigation has already taken place, does also have the authority to refer evidence to the attorney general for criminal investigation.

In a companion letter, Stilp also asked the little-noted House Ethics Committee to take up an investigation case for possible institutional discipline.

The controversy began Sunday with a Philadelphia Inquirer story detailing how Kane had abandoned the sting operation, in which those lawmakers were heard on tape accepting large cash gifts that were never officially reported on state ethics forms. Four Democrats in Philadelphia’s state House delegation — Ronald Waters, Vanessa Brown, Louise Bishop and Michelle Brownlee — allegedly accepted cash or money orders from lobbyist Tyron Ali.