Gov. John Kitzhaber speaks to the City Club of Portland Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, in Portland, Ore.
Rick Bowmer/AP

Kitzhaber faces political crisis in Oregon

It was just a few months ago that Oregon Democrats celebrated a very successful election cycle. Despite significant Republican gains in much of the country, Dems had a great 2014 in the Beaver State, up and down the ballot. Helping lead the way was Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), who was re-elected to an unprecedented fourth term.
 
The governor’s campaign was not, however, entirely easy. Several controversies, many of which related to Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, arose, but they weren’t enough to derail his re-election bid.
 
A month after the governor’s fourth inaugural, however, the Democrat’s career is suddenly in jeopardy. The Oregonian/OregonLive reported yesterday on a burgeoning controversy in which Kitzhaber aides helped “create jobs” for Hayes “with groups hoping to influence Oregon’s state energy policy.”
Hayes, the governor’s fiancée, held the paying jobs even as her role inside Kitzhaber’s office as an unpaid energy adviser geared up in 2011, her state calendar shows.
 
One paid her $5,000 a month for five months just after Kitzhaber started his third term as governor. Greg Wolf, currently Kitzhaber’s deputy chief of staff for field implementation, was key in creating the job and recommending Hayes for it just before he joined the administration, according to key participants including Wolf.
 
Another paid her $118,000 over two years, a fellowship orchestrated by Dan Carol, a Kitzhaber campaign adviser. He joined Kitzhaber’s staff the same month Hayes started collecting on her fellowship.
Or put another way, members of the governor’s team helped the governor’s fiancée get lucrative jobs with groups hoping to influence state energy policy, even while she advised the governor on energy issues.
 
The article quoted a local scholar, Jim Moore, a Pacific University government professor who heads the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation, who said Kitzhaber’s fiancée appeared to be “actively playing both sides of the revolving door at the same time.”
 
The editorial board of The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper, yesterday went so far as to call for the newly re-elected governor to resign.
More ugliness may surface, but it should be clear by now to Kitzhaber that his credibility has evaporated to such a degree that he can no longer serve effectively as governor. If he wants to serve his constituents he should resign.
 
To recite every reported instance in which Hayes, ostensibly under Kitzhaber’s watchful eye, has used public resources, including public employee time and her “first lady” title, in pursuit of professional gain would require far more space than we have here and, besides, repeat what most readers already know. Suffice it to say there’s a pattern, and the person who bears the responsibility for allowing it to form and persist is Kitzhaber, who should know better.
It’s not every day that major state newspapers call for their governor to resign, so the editorial was no small development.
 
For his part, Kitzhaber told reporters at a press conference on Friday that he has no intentions of stepping down, and his aides who helped land jobs for the governor’s fiancée insist they’ve done nothing wrong.
 

Oregon and Scandals

Kitzhaber faces political crisis in Oregon