Scandals of 2014 Will Haunt Kitzhaber Well Into Fourth Term
Monday, November 10, 2014
“The fact that so many Democrats sat out the election shows he has far less of a mandate for pushing his proposals forward,” said one Democratic operative who spoke to GoLocalPDX on condition of anonymity.
Kitzhaber was up by as much as 13 points against opponent Dennis Richardson, in a May poll by Public Policy Polling. That lead slipped to about 9 points after a series of media reports surfaced a number of scandals. In the end, the Governor only won only by five points.
The closeness of the vote only highlights that the Governor’s historic fourth term has come at an enormous price that will continue to cost him well into his next administration.
A Scorching October
Kitzhaber’s historic victory was hard won, as the final 30 days of the campaign unleashed scandals and partisan attacks on the Governor, who was all but absent from the fray.
On Oct. 8 media reports began questioning if the Governor’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, and her business dealings with three companies, Energy Foundation, Resource Media and Demos, constituted lobbying, while she was regarded as a “public official” inside the government.
More stories quickly spilled out, including her sham marriage for hire to an Ethiopian Immigrant named Abraham Abraham and a property in the Okanagan Valley she allegedly bought in 1997 to use as a pot farm.
On Oct. 13, Kitzhaber requested that the Oregon Ethics Commission provide him with an opinion on whether or not his fiancée Cylvia Hayes could be considered a “public official” and “First Lady of Oregon” even though the two are not married and there was no legal definition of a first lady anywhere in Oregon statues. He also asked the commission if Hayes' consulting contracts constituted an ethical conflict.
The Governor apparently did not know the basic rules on how the ethics commission operates, because on the Friday after the election the commission dismissed the request saying that it only advises on hypothetical situations.
During October, as accusations and allegations racked up, the Governor was all but silent. GoLocalPDX and The Oregonian both reported that their questions and requests for information from the Governor’s office met with a series of delays and excuses.
The Price of Victory
Many speculated that the scandals would suppress the vote among Kitzhaber supporters. That may have turned out to be true, as the Governor’s five-point victory didn’t leave him with much room to govern with.
Others say Kitzhaber failed to articulate any strong ideas during their races, and that will hurt too.
“Because there hasn’t been an election run on the issues at all, he won’t have a mandate,” said Len Bergstein, a political consultant with Northwest Strategies.
That said, with the Democrats having gained at least two seats in the legislature, (with the race in Oregon’s 15th District, between Bruce Starr and Chuck Riley, still undecided) Kitzhaber will have a stronger Democratic party at his back.
“Even if the Governor doesn’t have a lot of juice now, there is a wide majority in the house and senate,” Bergstein said.
Democrats may have a wide enough margin to push through new gun legislation, tax reform and other things on their wish list, but they probably won’t have the Governor’s ‘grand bargain’ political finesse in their corner this term.
Investigation after investigation
The Oregon Ethics Commission began a preliminary investigation into both Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes on Friday. Come February, commission staff will present a recommendation to the commission either to dismiss two ethics complaints filed against the couple or to launch a full investigation.
Cover Oregon, the state’s failed healthcare exchange and website, has spawned at least three investigations. The FBI, the U.S. Government Office of Accountability and the Health and Human Services Inspector General have all launched separate probes into why a quarter of a billion in tax payer dollars could have been spent on a website that never launched.
Those investigations may yield exonerations or indictments for Kitzhaber, his fiancée and his administration. How they play out may have an enormous impact on the Governor’s ability to move his party’s and his own agenda forward, or whether or not he stays in office.
Related Slideshow: Timeline of Cylvia Hayes’ Life and Misdeeds
March 28, 1989
Hayes divorced Todd Hayes in the state of Washington
Dec. 17, 1996
Hayes divorced Doug McCarthy
July 19, 1997
King County, Washington marriage records revealed Hayes married an 18-year-old Ethiopian immigrant, Abraham B. Abraham. There was no record of the couple living together and four years and three months later they filed for divorce, which was finalized in 2002. Hayes admitted to being paid $5,000 for the marriage, which she said she used to pay for school expenses and did not report in her taxes.
Evergreen State College
Hayes transferred to Evergreen from Bellevue Community College to earn a bachelor's degree in environmental studies in 1994. There she played on the woman's soccer team and was awarded academic and athletic scholarships. She stayed on at Evergreen to earn a master's degree in Environmental Studies in 1997.
Alleged pot farm property
Hayes and her then boyfriend bought property in Okanogan, Washington near the Canadian border. Hayes admitted the property was intended for marijuana growth, although she said the operation “never materialized” and that she was never financially involved. However, the person who took over the property said that Hayes and her boyfriend stopped making payments and that there was evidence of marijuana being grown there. She gave up her interest in the property in April 1998.
Investigation by DOJ
Hayes was the center of a criminal investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice surrounding a consulting contract she received from the Oregon Department of Energy. Although her firm was ranked last, it was still granted work. Hayes was never accused of any wrongdoing, but the investigation showed state officials had guided a $60,000 contract to her firm.
3E Contracts with Demos
Hayes signed a $20,611 consulting contract with Resource Media, a firm that had contacted Kitzhaber’s office the year before to promote a Pacific Coast climate and energy initiative.
Hayes signed a $40,000 contract with the nonprofit Energy Foundation, who she had worked with as part of her duties as a Kitzhaber adviser. Hayes had spoken at an Energy Foundation event in 2012 and emailed them in the start of 2013, mentioning funding for the company.
Hayes signed a $25,000 contract with Demos. Hayes spoke and moderated a Demos panel, but was introduced as Oregon’s first lady, rather than a paid consultant.
Oct. 9, 2014
In a press conference, Hayes admitted to an illegal green card marriage in 1997. She said that she told Governor Kitzhaber about the illegal marriage only a day before the news went public.
Oct. 13, 2014
Hayes admitted to KOIN 6 NEWS that she had lived on a property in Okanogan, WA used for growing and selling marijuana.
The bank loan
Oct. 15, 2014
The Willamette Week wrote that the Governor’s office had helped extend a government loan for a former client of Hayes’ consulting business in Bend, Oregon. The owner of a golf course was given an extension on his loan from the Oregon Department of Energy after the Department was persuaded by Kitzhaber's staff. The owner wrote a thank-you note to Hayes, Kitzhaber’s chief of staff and his business advisor for their help with the situation.
Oct. 15, 2014
The GOP filed a complaint with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission against Kitzhaber, Hayes, and the governor's unpaid advisor Patricia McCaig. It claimed there was a “conflict of interest transactions, employment relationships, benefits from public contracts, usage of public buildings and staff for personal financial gain and business."
Former boyfriend speaks
Oct. 21, 2014
Karl Topinka, Hayes' former boyfriend she owned the pot farm in Washington with, told the Daily Mail that Hayes couldn't be trusted. He also said the pot farm was all her idea and she had done the planning. Topinka said Hayes failed to tell him of her illegal marriage that had taken place shortly before.
Oct. 25, 2014
Governor Kitzhaber did not list Hayes in an ethics document consisting of lobbyists he had a relationship with, GoLocalPDX reported. In a section where he was supposed to disclose “any compensated lobbyist who was associated with a business with which you or a member or your household was associated during 2013,” Kitzhaber wrote “N/A” or not applicable.
Open records complaint
Oct. 29, 2014
GoLocalPDX.com filed a complaint with the Attorney General of Oregon against the Governor’s office for failure to comply with the open records law. A request for information to determine if the Governor had received income from Hayes’ consulting contracts was ignored for over two weeks, prompting the official complaint.
Hayes Speaks Out
Nov. 6, 2014
Cylvia Hayes made her first public statement since her confession that she had been part of an illegal sham marriage. The statement which she made via her Facebook page reads:
"I just want to thank all of you who have sent such support and encouragement over these past very challenging weeks. In the midst of the storm the positive incoming from friends, family and colleagues has been enormously helpful. Thank you for taking time to reach out."
Cylvia Hayes could face federal fraud charges for her dual role as a private consultant and public official in the Governor’s office, a series of legal experts told GoLocalPDX.
The findings of an Oregon Ethics Commission investigation will determine whether Hayes violated state ethics laws when she accepted contracts for her private consulting firm while working in the governor’s office under the title of “Oregon’s First Lady.”
On Jan. 9, Willamette Week reported Hayes was under federal investigation, raising the specter of federal charges.
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- Ethics Commission Denies Governor, Investigation Moves Forward
- Federal Investigation into Cover Oregon Costing Ore. Taxpayers $146K
- Cover Oregon Not First Multi-Million Dollar Tech Disaster on Kitzhaber’s Watch