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Questions Kitzhaber Didn’t or Wouldn’t Answer

Monday, February 02, 2015

 

Governor Johns Kitzhaber's Friday press conference, billed as an attempt to address mounting allegations against his fiancee, self-styled "First Lady" Cylvia Hayes, raised more questions than it answered. 

Hayes has not been made available to answer media questions, but Kitzhaber deflected questions regarding her now dubious tax filings and possible use of public office to win consulting work, to Hayes, who is in Europe. 

Slides Below: Questions Kitzhaber Didn't or Wouldn't Answer 

Last week, press reports surfaced that Hayes was paid $118,000 in a previously undisclosed fellowship from D.C.-based nonprofit the Clean Economy Development Center, which conflicts with tax filings she supplied to some media outlets. The Friday press conference was intended to quell questions arising from the the revelation, but Kitzhaber stonewalled related questions. 

When pressed about his responses on financial disclosures made to the state ethics board, and what bearing Hayes' apparently undisclosed income had on the truthfulness of his reporting, Kitzhaber held he completed the report accurately, but would not say if he knew about the $118,000. 

The Governor repeatedly answered reporters with responses that spoke to navigating the "undefined area of First Lady." 

Political experts and reporters weighed in on the questions Kitzhaber has yet to answer, or simply has refused to answer, and the impact the silence is having on the situation.  

“We should be celebrating him and you feel like you need to take a shower," said Oregon State University Professor of Political Science James C. Foster of the press conference. Formerly the chair of OSU's political sciences department, Foster has watched Kitzhaber's career from its early days. 

Foster watched Kitzhaber's rise from being a Roseberg emergency room doctor to a state representative to Governor. He expect there is still more information about Hayes' business dealings to emerge. 

“The major question that he needs to answer, and it troubles us who were admirers, is ‘what’s going on John? Has this woman so captured your attention, that you can’t get your mind around the love of your life [might be] exercising bad judgement?’” Foster said. Whether Hayes exercised poor judgement or not is the subject of an Oregon Ethics Commission review. However, questions remain as to how objectively a board of commissioners appointed by the Governor will rule. When asked Friday, Kitzhaber said he sees no need to request an outside body to investigate. 

“It seems out of character for him to have made such lapses in judgement,” said Foster. He argued the unfolding events raise troubling questions about the level of honesty in Kitzhaber and Hayes’ relationship. 

Outlasting the Scandal

The decision to batten down the hatches and ride out a political scandal by saying nothing is an effective strategy when the situation blows over, said Reed College Assitant Professor of Political Science David Ciuk.

“If it blows over, it’s the right move," Ciuk said. "If you’re having the same press conference two weeks later, it probably wasn’t.” 

Len Bergstein, a political consultant with Northwest Strategies, said from what he saw of Friday's press conference, there are still too many unanswered questions. 

“I want to be part of those people who think that what happened at the press conference was dramatic and dangerous," said Bergstein. 

Kitzhaber was peppered with questions, ranging from if he had been "blinded by love" to whether he would resign if found guilty of an ethics violation. But the specific questions regarding whether he intentionally omitted information regarding Hayes' income on his Statements of Economic Interest went unanswered. The Governor said Hayes was in Sweden on her own expense, but it is unclear who is funding her trip to Berlin for climate change-related events. 

“Look John, what do you have to lose by sitting down in front of some microphones with Cylvia and coming clean?" Foster asked. 

Foster said the administration’s unwillingness to confront the issues and answer questions surrounding Hayes is only stoking public doubt.

“They seem to think that stonewalling is the best strategy, when really it just compounds the existing challenges,” he said. 

Legal Definitions 

Two legal definitions have emerged as lynchpins that will determine the direction of the ongoing saga of Hayes' dubious contracts, use of state resources, and tax reporting. It remains unclear whether the Governor and Hayes are seen under the eyes of the law as a household. The second legal grey area is whether she is in fact a public official. 

Friday, Kitzhaber said he had no idea whether he and Hayes were legally a household, in which case he would be implicated to a greater degree, should Hayes be indicted for her alleged transgressions. The statement raises questions about how Kitzhaber, with a legal and financial staff, could have no idea what the state of Hayes' finances were. 

Political expert and Pacific University professor Jim Moore said regardless of whether or not she and Kitzhaber legally constitute a household, Hayes faces serious questions.

"It's pretty clear she either gave the Oregonian fraudulent tax returns or she lied to the IRS," Moore said. According to the Oregonian, Hayes provided the newspaper with tax returns, one of which, in 2012, lists her income as roughly $27,000. That was the same year she was awarded an $88,000 fellowship from the Clean Economy Development Center, according to the East Oregonian. 

Moore wants to know whether the work Hayes was contracted to do was in fact done. He also has this question: "What were you thinking?" 

Legal Questions

While the Governor said he had not been contacted by the FBI or hired a criminal defense attorney, the question of whether Hayes has contacted a criminal defender, or has been contacted by the FBI, remains. 

Ciuk also argues Kitzhaber’s best move would be to directly address all of the allegations head-on. Ciuk noted that when political controversies unfold, public opinion initially drops, but often recovers quickly, so long as they don’t drag on.

“It’s probably being hopeful that another bomb doesn’t drop, but the track record is probably suggesting that maybe there is more to come,” he said.

“He’s lost control of the narrative,” Foster said. “During the primary and general election, he tried to outlast the situation, but now he’s a fourth-term governor with no where to go.”

 

Related Slideshow: Slideshow: Questions Kitzhaber Didn’t or Wouldn’t Answer

The Governor's Friday media address, billed as an attempt to increase transparency into the matter of his controversial fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, raised more questions than it answered. 

Prev Next

How do you not know whether or not you and Cylvia Hayes constitute a legal household?

Friday, Kitzhaber said he had no idea whether he and Hayes were legally a household, in which case he would be implicated to a greater degree, should Hayes be indicted for her alleged transgressions. The statement raises questions about how Kitzhaber, with a legal and financial staff, could have no idea what the state of Hayes' finances were. 

Political expert and Pacific University professor Jim Moore said regardless of whether or not she and Kitzhaber legally constitute a household, Hayes faces serious questions, he said. 

Prev Next

Is Cylvia Hayes being investigated by the IRS?

When media reports surfaced that Hayes is being investigated by the FBI, Kitzhaber’s office said they were not aware of any investigation. Still, the question of whether she is being investigated by the IRS remains.

Friday, Kitzhaber would not answer questions regarding Hayes’ taxes.

"It's pretty clear she either gave the Oregonian fraudulent tax returns or she lied to the IRS," said Jim Moore, a professor of political science at Pacific University. 

Prev Next

“What’s going on, John?”

“The major question that he needs to answer, and it troubles us who were admirers, is ‘what’s going on, John? Has this woman so captured your attention that you can’t get your mind around the love of your life [maybe] exercising bad judgement?’” said James C. Foster, a professor of Political Science at Oregon State University, Cascades. 

Prev Next

Why is the German government paying for Cylvia Hayes’ trip to Berlin?

Kitzhaber said Friday that Cylvia Hayes is in Sweden on her own expense, visiting friends, but will be travelling to Berlin for a meeting with the same group that funded her 2013 trip to Bhutan. 

Kitzhaber emphasized the trip was not being funded by Oregon taxpayers, but did not explain why the German government was funding her trip. 

Prev Next

Did you ever talk to Cylvia Hayes about her taxes?

In refusing to answer questions regarding Cylvia Hayes’ taxes, the Governor would not say whether or not he spoke to her, officially or unofficially, about the legitimacy of her tax filings.

“I have nothing else to say on the issue of her taxes,” the Governor said Friday. 

Prev Next

If Cylvia Hayes is a public official, why has she not been made available to answer media questions?

Since her tearful October press statement in which she apologized for an illegal 1997 marriage to an Ethiopian immigrant, Hayes has not addressed media. Even in that address, she did not take questions following her statement.

Kitzhaber deflected several questions asked Friday to Hayes, although she is out of the country. 

Prev Next

Have you or Cylvia Hayes contacted a criminal defense attorney?

While Kitzhaber said Friday he had not hired a criminal defender, the question remains as to whether or not he or Hayes have consulted one. Last month, media reports surfaced that Hayes was under investigation by the FBI, although the Governor’s office denied knowledge of any federal investigation. 

Prev Next

“What were you thinking?”

Jim Moore, a professor of political science at Pacific University, said regardless of whether or not Hayes and Kitzhaber legally constitute a household, Hayes faces serious questions regarding her tax filings. 

Prev Next

Why not ask an organization other than the Oregon Ethics Commission to investigate you?

When asked Friday, Ktizhaber said he did not think it was necessary to ask an investigative body other than the Oregon Ethics Commission, whom he appoints, to look into whether or not he or Cylvia Hayes violated Oregon's state ethics statute. 

Prev Next

Did you know about the $118,000 fellowship from the CEDC?

Media reports last week unveiled Hayes was the recipient of a $118,000 fellowship from D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center. She received $88,000 in 2012 and $30,000 in 2011, but the apparently undisclosed money does not match tax filings she supplied to some media outlets. 

In refusing to comment on Hayes' taxes, Kitzhaber would not say whether or not he knew about the fellowship money. 

Prev Next

Why aren't Cylvia Hayes' contracts reflected on your Statements of Economic Interest?

The financial disclosure forms Kitzhaber is required to supply the Oregon Ethics Commission each year he holds public office may not reflect the income Hayes genrated from consulting contracts.

The form requires Kitzhaber to declare the name of any compensated lobbyist associated with a business with which he or a member of his household was associated with. In 2012, he wrote N/A, the same year the Clean Economy Development Center, which works with public officials to support renewable energy initiatives and create jobs, awarded Hayes a fellowship worth $88,000.  

 
 

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