Ed Rendell blew into Harrisburg Tuesday, late to a hearing and wearing running shoes with his suit, to tell the state Senate they’ve got it all wrong when it comes to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
The former Democratic governor was a last-minute testifier at a hearing meant to give Kane a chance to defend herself from suggestions that she be removed. Kane did not attend, though she sent her chief of staff.
The Senate launched the removal effort in light of questions about Kane’s ability to do her job while she doesn’t have an active law license. The attorney general's legal credential was suspended by the state Supreme Court last year due to the pending criminal case against her. This week, Kane asked the high court to reconsider.
As Rendell pointed out to the Senate panel, the state’s high court has three new justices now (all of them Democrats, like Kane), and could reverse its opinion – which could undermine the Senate’s entire rationale for pursuing the attorney general’s removal.
“It would add to the chaos. Guys – senators – impeach her,” said Rendell. “If your main complaint is the way she’s conducted herself in office, don’t use this method.”
Rendell insisted the attorney general didn’t need an active law license to carry out her responsibilities, anyway. He likened her agency to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, which he was elected to run for eight years.
“The vast, vast majority -- well over 95 percent of my duties -- were administrative, or policy setting, or communications, PR, and outreach,” said Rendell. “In none of those functions -- in none of those functions -- did I act as a lawyer.”
Kane’s chief of staff, Jonathan Duecker, insisted the same – that most of Kane’s duties don’t rely directly on her knowledge of the law, as long as her top deputies and lawyers throughout her agency are exercising their legal judgment.
For more than two hours the Senate panel heard Duecker’s testimony, some of it quite tense. When he couldn’t tell Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) details about Kane’s schedule for the past 10 days, Scarnati erupted.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Scarnati said, raising his voice. “You can’t be this effective worldly well-respected attorney general... but you don’t come to work, nobody knows what you’re doing...”
“She does come to work,” said Duecker. Scarnati continued.
“She’s not privy to details,” said Scarnati, “she can’t make the decisions, and if she is making the decisions, it’s in violation of the law – with her suspended law license.”
As for Kane’s removal -- the earliest the state Senate could vote on it would be in 15 days. A two-thirds majority is required to direct the governor to unseat her.