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February 28, 2012 | By | Posted in General News

Attorney general candidate’s email raises concerns of political agenda

Murphy’s campaign says he will fight for the rights of Pennsylvanians
 
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
 
HARRISBURG — In a pair of emails to supporters, Patrick Murphy, candidate for state’s attorney general, said he wants to defend Pennsylvania from a Republican and tea party agenda, raising questions about the role of politics in the top cop race.

 
“Until I get to Harrisburg, the only way to fight back is to increase public pressure,” he writes. 
 
The mailer asks readers to sign a petition asking Gov. Tom Corbett and “Tea Party Republicans” to stop trying to suppress the right to vote with a controversial bill that would require all voters to show photo identification at the polls.
 
The messages have aroused concern among Republicans, tea party groups and Murphy's opponents in the attorney general race. They question whether the state's top law enforcement officer should be concerned about political agendas.
 
Robert Howard, education director for the Pennsylvania Coalition for Responsible Government, an alliance of tea party groups in western Pennsylvania, said the emails were not in line with the role of the attorney general.
 
"When most Pennsylvanians think of the attorney general, they think about consumer protection, protecting kids and seniors, and fighting identity fraud," Howard said. "They do not think of the attorney general as a government official with an enemies’ list attacking citizens for exercising their right to criticize the government."
 
 
Nat Binns, communications director for Murphy’s campaign, pointed to Murphy’s career as an Army paratrooper and Iraq War veteran.
 
“This is about defending the constitutionally guaranteed vote of every Pennsylvanian from political gamesmanship,” Binns wrote in an email. “Patrick Murphy has spent his career fighting for those rights, and he will never back down when partisan politics put them in jeopardy.”
 
 
Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell abandoned a similar bill in Virginia after the state’s attorney general advised that its passage could open the state to legal action.  
 
Binns said the Virginia example showed the attorney general has a role to play on political issues.
 
But that did not persuade Ana Puig, co-leader of the Kitchen Table Patriots, a Bucks County tea party group. 
 
“The end justifies the means,” Puig wrote in an email. “He will use his political position to advance the left’s ideology in our state.”
 
This is not the first time Murphy’s campaign has stirred up controversy. 
 
He told the Associated Press news service in January that he not passed the Pennsylvania bar exam — he was admitted to the state bar after passing the Minnesota bar and spending time as a military lawyer — and has not tried a case in the state’s court system.
 
Murphy was the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress, in 2006. U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick beat him in 2010.
 
He is running against former Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane and Dauphin County attorney Don Bailey, a former state auditor general and U.S. House representative, in the April 24 primary election. 
 
Bailey said efforts such as the voter ID bill should be fought by the attorney general on constitutional grounds, but he disagreed with Murphy's attempts to single out the tea party groups for criticism.
 
Tea party groups “are not approaching things from a partisan perspective, and I don't think he should, either," Bailey said.
 
Kane's campaign declined comment.
 
On the other side of the ballot, Republican Dave Freed, Cumberland County district attorney, is running unopposed for the nomination.
 
Freed's campaign spokesman Vincent Galko said the manner in which candidates conduct themselves during the campaign can give voters an idea about their temperaments.
 
"The next attorney general needs to have the proper disposition to do the job impartially," Galko wrote in an email. "Dave Freed has had to make the tough calls and he has built his career protecting Pennsylvania families."
 
Terry Madonna, a professor of political science at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, said the Attorney General’s Office has become more visible than ever as a result of the so-called “Bonusgate” investigation, but the position requires caution when it comes to political activities.
 
“The attorney general has to be very careful not to be overly partisan, and not to get caught up in partisan politics,” he said. “I don’t remember a time when you had these kinds of issues in an election for that office.”
 
The Attorney General’s Office has been accused of being used for political purposes, most notably by Democrats during the investigation into taxpayer-funded bonuses paid to state workers for doing campaign work. 
 
That investigation was started under Corbett in 2005 during his term as attorney general and continued by current Attorney General Linda Kelly, Corbett’s hand-picked successor.
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