It started as a plea arrangement between a lobbyist arrested for fraud and the Republican attorney general of the state of Pennsylvania. And it ended not with a bang but a whimper by the new Democratic attorney general, who shut down the investigation without filing a single charge.
Philly.com quotes Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, who took office in 2013, as telling the Inquirer that the investigation was “poorly conceived, badly managed, and tainted by racism, saying it had targeted African Americans.”
The undercover sting, begun three years ago by Kane’s predecessor, Republican Tom Corbett, captured leading Philadelphia Democrats, including four local members of the state’s House delegation, on tape accepting money. The lobbyist who agreed to wear a wire and tape officials reacting to offers of cash and/or gifts is Tyron B. Ali, 40, who was arrested in a $430,000 fraud case.
“Sources with knowledge of the sting said the investigation made financial pitches to both Republicans and Democrats, but only Democrats accepted the payments,” said the Inquirer.
Four state lawmakers took money, the sources said. State Rep. Ronald G. Waters accepted multiple payments totaling $7,650; State Rep. Vanessa Brown took $4,000; State Rep. Michelle Brownlee received $3,500; and State Rep. Louise Bishop took $1,500, said people with knowledge of the investigation.
In the Brown exchange, Ali paid a visit to the representative in her office and “handed her an envelope with $2,000, according to people who have reviewed a transcript of a tape Ali made on that day.”
As Brown accepted the money, they said, she put it in her purse and said: “Yo, good looking and Ooowee…. Thank you twice.”
After he gave Brown the money, Ali urged her to vote against a bill that would require voters to show identification at the polls, the sources said.
The Inquirer described how the investigation had gathered 400 hours of audio and video recordings of Ali meeting with public officials. But soon after Kane’s inauguration in 2013 as the first female and Democrat Attorney General in the state’s history, she began shutting the investigation down.
She told the Inquirer the allegations are a political, sexist, and racist attack from her Republican enemies: “Nothing more than the Good Ol’ Boys club playing political games to discredit me in order to fulfill their own selfish and improper agenda.”
The story is rocketing through Philadelphia business and political circles. Some say the results of the investigation are just “business as usual.” Others criticize the past three Attorneys General for working with Ali, who has also been charged with violations of election law.
Said one friend of Kane to the Inquirer: “Is this a John Grisham novel?”
Howard Portnoy contributed to this report.
Follow Colin Flaherty at his website, White Girl Bleed a Lot.