Local Liberal Loses Lots of Luster

While Philadelphia pretty much elects only Democrats to city-wide office, it seldom elects genuine liberals – and when it does, they’re elected to the city council, where their colleagues humor and marginalize them. It was a pretty big surprise, then, when city voters two springs ago nominated a fellow named Larry Krasner (over six opponents, some of them credible candidates) to be the Democratic candidate for district attorney – a nomination that in Philadelphia means you will certainly be elected unless you’re incompetent (which has happened in The Curmudgeon’s lifetime).

Krasner brings some pretty serious liberal credentials to his job.  He’s spent his career as a civil rights lawyer, has defended a lot of radicals and activists (including people from Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter), wants to stop imprisoning people unnecessarily, aspires to join others in ending the cash bail system that lets people with money go free and those without to rot in their cells, and more.  Once elected, he fired more than two dozen prosecutors he felt were unacceptably harsh in their approach to their jobs.

He received campaign contributions from George Soros, for heaven’s sake!

But Krasner’s not perfect, and he recently put that imperfection on public display when the local newspapers explained that in his financial disclosures, Krasner and his wife (a local judge) reported owing money to his former business partner – a debt that reportedly has been “settled” – and that he hired that former business partner for a $160,000-a-year job in his office.

So what we have is a guy who campaigned as not a typical politician acting very much like a typical politician by giving a high-paying job to a pal – a pal and former business partner to whom he once owed money.

Worse, when reporters wanted to talk to Krasner about it, he would have none of it:  he had a spokesman do his dirty work for him.

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer,

“Thanks to being in court nearly every day for 35 years, [Giampietro] [note:  the friend who got the job] has tremendous insight into and relationships with judges, police, prosecutors, sheriffs, defense attorneys, and court administration officials,” Krasner spokesperson Ben Waxman said in an email. “He has had a longstanding personal and business relationship with … Krasner and therefore is uniquely qualified to serve as a Senior Advisor in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.”

Qualified, perhaps – maybe – but isn’t doing something like this just a really bad idea?

The poor spokesman didn’t think so.

Waxman said Krasner’s office “reviewed the city code and found no ethics violations, including the conflict of interest section.” He said the review was conducted by Richard Glazer, who is Krasner’s ethics officer and the former chairman of the city Board of Ethics. Waxman would not say when the review was conducted, share its findings, or make Glazer available for an interview.

So it’s not illegal?  Not an ethics violation?  And the question of whether it was an ethics violation was decided by a guy appointed by the fellow whose actions were in question? And the review, conducted by a public official and paid for by public money, isn’t available for public review?

Is that really the standard a guy like Krasner believes he needs to live up to – or, in this case, live down to?

The jury’s still out on Larry Krasner and what kind of public prosecutor he’ll be but it’s clear that at bottom, he’s just another politician doing at least some of the things that politicians do – and that politicians’ constituents hate.

This may come back to bite him on the bum when – if – he runs for re-election.  If he does, he’s not going to be a guy above the political fray anymore. He’ll be just another politician who gives high-paying jobs to his pals and thinks there’s nothing wrong with it because it’s not against the law.

Public officials need to live up to a standard that’s higher than “not against the law” – sort of like whether Trump engaged in collusion with the Russians, regardless of whether he broke any laws – and on this count, Larry Krasner has failed.

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