The campaign slogan of candidate Kathleen Kane is “we need a prosecutor, not a politician” as attorney general. We disagree. We need both. Of course we need strong law enforcement and tough prosecutors for the protection of the public and vigorous enforcement of the criminal laws of the Commonwealth, but we also need a strong and trusted political leader with proven integrity, and Don Bailey is best qualified by far to serve both roles.
The systemic issues that have corrupted Pennsylvania politics need extensive political reform. There need to be calls for investigations into, and oversight of, the courts and their control over attorneys, and to the conditions that have allowed whistleblowers to be scuttled, and cronyism to flourish. There may even need to be a call for a constitutional convention to address some of the problems endemic to the Pennsylvania Constitution.
We need a seasoned politician – a professional who knows how to work within the constitutional political process – to take these issues to the executive and the legislature, and to work in cooperation with federal authorities as well, and to be prepared to go toe-to-toe with the courts over attorney discipline and judicial discipline issues.
Don Bailey has served on both the federal and statewide levels in the past in politically-elected positions, i.e., positions in which he was responsive only to the people who elected him, and he served honorably, and always in the interest of his constituents. Handwritten thank you notes from, and photographs of Don with, Presidents, commendations from his past service, both as a public servant and as an actually decorated combat veteran, adorn the walls of his office, and Don has stayed closely connected to the political process, though as an outsider, through his civil rights practice.
Don’s story – his experience that qualifies him to be attorney general – began when he was an elected official, and has continued in an unbroken chain through the present. Only he has the political experience to tackle the problems that confront us as Pennsylvanians.
The Office of Attorney General has only been an elected office in Pennsylvania since 1981, and it has never been won by a Democrat. The Republican party for some reason has seemed to garner the “tough on crime” image – it may be nothing more than that – Democrats are prosecutors in district attorneys’ offices all over the state. The tactic is to make that portrayal, and to discuss toughness on crimes against children and the elderly. These crimes no doubt are major areas of legitimate concern, but their use in the context of elections to the office are more of a scare tactic that serve only to distract from the real issues that should be high on the next attorney general’s agenda.
The prosecutor not a politician with tough on child and elder crime message is a co-opting of what has already been a successful formula for the Republican candidates, and a general election on that turf would be a contest as to whom can spend more money trying to get that message across, a contest that clearly favors Mr. Freed.
Every Pennsylvanian should be able to be assured that protection of children and the elderly is of the highest ongoing priorities of the criminal enforcement division of the Office of Attorney General, and that should never depend on the politics of the office-holder. The importance of that commitment is even greater as access to the vulnerable is easier as technology advances, and, again, should be universally recognized. It is fair to assure prospective voters of the priority, and the commitment to it. It is artificial to make it the primary issue in a campaign, as, of course, it appeals to all our senses of safety and security, like a commercial advertisement, and distracts from the other issues that have affected the condition of government in Pennsylvania.
The real harm to children in this state through its highest-profile-ever child sex prosecution was not the result of the alleged acts of one man. Grievous harm to numerous children was allowed to happen because of the “good old boys’ network” need to protect an institution, by using its lawyers and the courts. Jerry Sandusky, of course, needs to be prosecuted and convicted if he is proven to have done what has been alleged, and Kathleen Kane could probably be counted on to do as good a job as any prosecutor in bringing him to justice, but which candidate, Kane, Bailey, Murphy, or Freed, will look into the institutional heart of the matter to the decisions that were made that allowed this case to become a sordid 10-year tale of cover-ups and abuses. Bailey is the only one, and his record shows it abundantly.
Don Bailey’s political history is one of not turning a blind eye or giving in to the “business as usual” ways of Pennsylvania politics. He stood in the way of a joint state and federal coercive effort to have him do so, and was smeared in a re-election campaign, and had his political future taken from him for doing so.
Don may be the only politician in American history to have won a defamation case arising out of statements made against him by his political opponent during an election contest. The September 8, 2000 letter of apology he received from former Auditor General Barbara Hafer cites false information she received from certain federal officials as the basis of her smear. One of those “federal officials” is Marty Carlson, former U.S. Attorney, and current U.S. Magistrate Judge, and author of the April fool’s day 2010 false smear against Don Bailey circulated throughout the state that was intended to be the last nail in Bailey’s professional coffin. Carlson is a Penn State graduate, and Penn State has been protected by the good old boys’ network, including the courts, for years.
Pat Murphy has never tried a case in Pennsylvania courts according to reports, Kane as an assistant prosecutor likely has an acculturated and protective view of “the system”, as reflected through her reported commitment to keep on all the current staff of the AG’s office. Dave Freed is endorsed by the primary focus of the initial investigation, governor Tom Corbett, and Freed’s father-in-law, Leroy Zimmerman, is also a major fundraising Republican operative, and was the first in the unbroken chain of Republican Attorneys general, elected in 1981.
Bailey was Auditor General while Zimmerman was Attorney General. Zimmerman stepped down as Chairman of the Board of the Hershey School for Boys in November, 2011, one week before his son-in-law announced his candidacy. Questions of improprieties in the Hershey Trust have flown under the radar of past Republican Attorneys General. Zimmerman’s firm, Eckert, Seamans, also has close ties right into the state and federal federal courts, and the disciplinary authorities. Linda Kelly does not appear to have any of these matters on her agenda.
The next Attorney General needs to understand the entire climate in which these things occur in order to have any chance of effecting any real institutional change, and Don Bailey has been at the heart of the efforts to expose it and change it for 20 years. Kane has talked of “public corruption”, and the prosecutions of Jim Dewees, Mike Veon, and others serve some valuable public integrity purposes to be sure, but they are treating a symptom, and nobody but Bailey is addressing the problem.
The candidates for the office sell the “criminal prosecutor” aspect of the job, which, again, is an important part of the position, and one that will be a part of Bailey’s administration, to be sure, but the Attorney General is more than a prosecutor, he or she is the chief “law enforcement” officer of the Commonwealth, and Don Bailey’s practice as a civil rights lawyer for years, which could as easily be known as “constitutional law enforcement”, and offers a unique law enforcement background, that, with his hands-on experience, qualifies Don alone as the proper person for the job.
Don’s practice has centered on bringing cases under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which is quintessentially a constitutional law enforcement statute – it protects individual citizens from intrusions into their rights “under color of law”, i.e., by government officials. There are criminal civil rights statutes as well. One of the biggest problems in our state is corruption in our courts and high-level public offices, the state police, and other government institutions. Government criminal prosecutors are beholden, and become acculturated, to deferring to these entities, understandably and by necessity, to some extent, but it creates a loyalty to the heart of the problem.
A constitutional law enforcement lawyer, on the other hand, particularly the kind of cases and law that Don typically deals with, is really a very important law enforcement function – it is policing the police, and the government, through civil cases prosecuted by individual citizens against public officials for violations of their rights under the constitution, and Don has a prolific record of successfully performing this law enforcement function over the years, and is the very reason the courts themselves are trying to stop him.
The other candidates have not even mentioned things like investigating Penn State administrators, or even Corbett, for what they knew, and the harm that was caused by trying to cover the whole thing up – the evidence of something nefarious cannot be denied – and they may not talk about it at all during their campaigns because they likely do not know how it all really works. These are the types of things that Don deals with routinely, and, in the Penn State case, this would have been the most effective way to protect children, and needs to be done now to do so in the future.
What is the next attorney general going to do about the Centralia, Pennsylvania situation, which will involve investigations going back decades, through all the Republican law enforcement administrations, or the Kimmet case involving fraudulent debt collection practices right out of the current attorney general’s office, or the myriad other public corruption cases where the attorney general’s civil division is representing state police officials, executive office holders, and all other manner of constitutional law enforcement cases? They will likely not be addressed if the next attorney general is committed to the same staff, and certainly if not beholden to the same party and the same executive. They are issues that must be addressed, and Don Bailey has proven that he has the courage to do so, and is beholden to no one, except the people who should put him into office.
When Don Bailey won a verdict on behalf of two dedicated narcotics enforcement officers from the attorney general’s office against then-attorney general Mike Fisher, who was rewarded with a seat on the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a memo circulated that Bailey had caused a “shit storm”. If not before, that was the time that they knew that Bailey must be stopped, because the real shit storm that “they” have always wanted to avoid is one that could be created by an elected law enforcement official that is not beholden to the gold old boys’ network, and to business as usual in Pennsylvania. A shit storm could be just the cleansing Pennsylvania needs.