Campaigns & Elections

State lawmakers spar over new effort to audit Krasner’s office

Republicans said the move would allow investigations into Krasner to continue. Democrats called it redundant and futile.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building

The Pennsylvania Capitol building Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers may not be launching impeachment proceedings against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner just yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re relenting on their investigations into him. 

The House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to approve a measure that would direct a separate committee to study how the district attorney’s office has used a range of funds, while also pushing the state auditor general to audit Krasner’s office. The move comes just a day after a GOP-led panel released a report on its own investigation into Krasner – one that did not recommend impeachment. 

The vote on House Resolution 239 sparked confusion among Democrats on the committee, who questioned why Republicans want a separate committee – the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee – to conduct the study, rather than the select committee created for the purpose of investigating crime in Philadelphia.

State Rep. John Lawrence, a Chester County Republican who chairs the select committee, said his resolution will ensure that investigations into crime in Philadelphia will continue once this legislative session ends. 

“The committee will cease to exist Nov. 30,” Lawrence said. “We suspect there is additional information that may need to be looked at in this circumstance, and both the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee and the auditor general will continue on past Nov. 30.”

Democratic state Rep. Emily Kinkead criticized the decision to empower a different committee to undertake the study, calling it an “exercise in redundancy and futility.”

“I feel like this resolution is largely redundant to the powers that we already have to just send a letter and ask for this information,” Kinkead said. 

Lawrence, however, said that it’s unlikely that Krasner would have complied. “The district attorney has chosen to place roadblocks at every turn when the committee has attempted to work with him,” he said.

Lawrence hinted that the resolution came at the “suggestion of entities outside the House that this is an area of attention that should be reviewed.” He later suggested the effort was encouraged by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, which Shapiro’s office denied. 

"The Office of Attorney General has not made any request for an audit of the Gun Violence Task Force, a spokesperson for Shapiro’s office said in an email. “The statement made at today’s hearing is unequivocally false."In a statement following the meeting, Lawrence clarified his remarks, stating that information the select committee received from Shapiro’s office helped form the basis for HR 239. “In the course of its ongoing investigation, the Select Committee received information from a number of sources. As mentioned in the Second Interim report issued yesterday, the Office of Attorney General provided information to the committee for review,” Lawrence said. “To be clear, the Attorney General did not request an audit, but their participation in the investigation led, in part, to the introduction of HR 239.”

The district attorney has chosen to place roadblocks at every turn when the committee has attempted to work with him.
– State Rep. John Lawrence

The resolution, if approved by the state House of Representatives, would direct the state LBFC to study federal, state and local funds allocated to Krasner’s office to compensate crime victims.  

The measure also urges Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor to conduct a “forensic audit” into how Krasner’s office has used state funds, included money allocated for the state’s Gun Violence Task Force, which is a collaborative effort between Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office, the Philadelphia Police Department and Krasner’s office. In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Krasner ripped into the select committee’s report, calling it a “political document and political stunt.” He also chided the committee for a factual error in the report that mistated the length of his term in office. 

“If they can't get the number of years of my term right because they’re so busy thinking about themselves, then that is how we get here,” Krasner said. “It is not in any way a good faith effort to get at public safety or issues around criminal justice. Is 100% a political document and a political stunt.”