Jedediah Leland doubts Kane’s integrity from the early moments of their partnership. Leland is as giddy as Kane is about their newfound authority at the newspaper, but the men’s ethics quickly diverge. Kane signs a noble “Declaration of Principles,” which Leland asks skeptically to keep as a souvenir. He seems to have a premonition that Kane’s principles will be subject to interpretation. As Kane becomes increasingly despotic, Leland questions the unethical and immoral way in which they conduct their business. Leland also views Kane’s self-delusion as ridiculous, even though Kane remains oblivious to his own hypocrisy and the harm he does. When Kane’s staff celebrates the fact that Kane has stolen the entire editorial staff of their rival newspaper, Leland, for the first time, openly questions whether the end justifies the means and whether loyalty can be bought. Several years later, Leland has the same disagreement with Kane, which leads Leland to request a transfer to Chicago. He feels he can become an ethical, objective reporter only if he can escape Kane’s suffocating control. Just like the women in Kane’s life, Leland must leave Kane to save himself.
Despite his doubts and criticisms, Leland attempts to maintain his integrity without destroying his friendship with Kane, and he sustains his faith in Kane longer than any other character in the film, with the possible exception of Bernstein. When Kane builds his wife Susan an opera house in Chicago, the city where Leland now works as the drama critic for a Kane newspaper, Leland must choose loyalty or the truth after Susan’s horrendous opening night. Leland starts to write a negative review of Susan’s performance, but he passes out, drunk, before he can finish it. Kane arrives at the office and indignantly finishes writing the review himself to show Leland that he can be an honest man, but when Leland wakes up, Kane bluntly fires him. Leland has little reason to think any integrity or goodness lurks within Kane, but nonetheless he mails Kane the “Declaration of Principles” Kane signed so many years ago. The gesture is a rebuke, but it is also a way of suggesting it’s not too late for Kane to change. Kane tears it up, effectively slicing Leland out of his life forever.