A Washington law firm has been contracted to pore over thousands of emails on Pennsylvania state servers as part of an independent investigation into a scandal dubbed “porngate.”
The firm of BuckleySandler will investigate emails that Pennsylvania’s embattled Attorney General Kathleen Kane described as “racist, misogynistic, homophobic and religiously offensive.” The contract was approved Dec. 10.
A separate contract for former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, a partner in the firm, is under review. Gansler is Kane’s choice to oversee the independent investigation. He confirmed to the Washington Jewish Week that he expects to be paid on a per diem basis commensurate to what the current attorney general earns, approximately $80 per hour.
As many as 1 million emails dating back to 2009 will be scrutinized by the BuckleySandler team.
Gansler, who is Jewish, served as the attorney general of Maryland for eight years. He ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for governor in 2014.
According to terms of the contract, BuckleySandler will investigate and prosecute any crimes “related to the use of Commonwealth e-mail communications systems.” That includes emails that Kane provided to Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille in October 2014.
Gansler and his team are looking into “improper disclosure of criminal investigative or grand jury matters and the viewing or transmission of sexually explicit, racially or otherwise discriminatory or illegal materials” by current and former members of the Attorney General’s Office, members of the judiciary and other public officials.
Under the contract, BuckleySandler will be compensated at a 15 percent discount of its 2015 normal hourly rate. Five attorneys in addition to Gansler are expected to work on the probe at the following rates: Benjamin B. Klubes at $880 per hour; Caitlin Kasmar at $740 per hour; Antonio Reynolds at $685 per hour; Elizabeth R. Bailey at $480 per hour; and Leah Kuo at $205 per hour.
None of the lawyers assigned to the case is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, Gansler said. This was done intentionally to maintain the integrity and independence of the investigation.
“We really want to maintain our independence,” said Gansler. “The public corruption allegations here include members of judiciary, district attorneys, members of the Office of Attorney General — independence is paramount.”
Some news outlets have quoted a $2 million dollar price tag for the investigation, which Gansler said is based on an expired independent counsel statute. He expects the investigation, which should take “months, not years” to complete, will fall short of that amount.
To those who might balk at the cost of the investigation, Gansler said, “The cost of not having the integrity and confidence and trust of the folks of Pennsylvania … is, in my view, a far higher cost than conducting an independent investigation of allegations.”
Much of the case will be handled in-house, though Gansler’s team will travel to Pennsylvania as needed to conduct interviews and any grand jury work, prosecutions or referrals, added Gansler.
“There’s an urgency to get this done [as quickly as possible] without compromising the integrity of the investigation,” he said. “It’s not like wine; it doesn’t get better with age.”
The investigation is in its earliest stages. Gansler said his firm is coordinating with Kane’s office to receive materials in the most “technologically feasible way.” He was scheduled to meet later this week in Pennsylvania with legislators and others who have a stake in the investigation.
Complicating Gansler’s appointment is that Kane is facing her own legal troubles separate from the investigation, which prompted some of Kane’s staff to question whether she had standing to hire Gansler.
Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected to the position, is facing felony charges of perjury for allegedly lying under oath about releasing grand jury secrets to a reporter in an effort to discredit her critics. The state Supreme Court has suspended her law license. Kane is also facing a federal defamation lawsuit that accuses her of abusing her power.
She has denied the allegations. She said she is the victim of a conspiracy which stems from her administration’s review of her predecessor’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.