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Politics & Government

House Panel Puts Kane On Defense Over Email Probe

Elizabeth Thomsen
via Flickr Creative Commons

A special investigation into objectionable emails exchanged from state computers has cost the commonwealth $67,000 and counting.

The revelation came from Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Monday as she answered questions from a state House panel.

The probe began in December, when Kane appointed a special prosecutor, former Maryland attorney general Doug Gansler, and hired his Washington, D.C. law firm, Buckley Sandler, to examine the emails and any impropriety among judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and others.

The attorney general’s office has capped the investigation’s total cost at $2 million. On Monday, Kane doubted it would hit that ceiling. But during the House hearing, Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks) wasn’t so sure.

“It’s a lot of money when there’s need all over,” said Quinn. “And I don’t believe a cap was put in without an expectation of coming near it.”

“I disagree with you on that,” said Kane in response, “but we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

Quinn also prodded Kane for an explanation about the purpose of the investigation.

“I’m not convinced yet that we’re going after criminal activity as opposed to naughty activity,” Quinn said.

The email investigation was announced a year-and-a-half after the messages – some pornographic, some offensive due to the comments made with racist, misogynistic, and otherwise objectionable overtones – were discovered by Kane’s office. They were swept up in a dragnet of office servers and computers during Kane’s investigation of the prosecution of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. Kane released some of the messages in batches that targeted different participants, leading dozens of state employees and others to be disciplined or lose their jobs.

Before House lawmakers, Kane defended the probe as a way to address the objectionable emails themselves and whether they made the state’s criminal justice system anything less than impartial.

“I understand that we are under tight budget controls,” said Kane. “But this isn’t just about ’15, this isn’t just about 2016, this is about the future of Pennsylvania.”