Oregon Governor Kitzhaber Resigns Amid Influence-Peddling Concerns

It is time for Oregon governor John Kitzhaber to ride into the sunset, but the damage may have already been done.

In an unusual twist to Valentine’s Day, Kitzhaber has offered his resignation and will step down Wednesday, February 18 from the governorship of Oregon due to increased pressures concerning the alleged influence-peddling done by Kitzhaber’s fiance, Cylvia Hayes. Kitzhaber, the only Oregonian to be voted to the governorship four times, is the first to resign for using his office as a mean of political and personal financial gain, according to the Washington Post.

“I have always tried to do the right thing and now the right thing to do is to step aside,” Kitz­haber wrote.

For the past week, calls had been coming from many media and political groups for Kitzhaber to resign. Kitzhaber himself had decided to resign twice, but talked himself out of it each time. He would admit to mistakes, then recant those statements.

Even his last statement highlighted his inconsistency, saying that he had “become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career,” then saying he was “confident” he had not been “dishonest or dishonorable” and would be exonerated.

The last month has been a horror show for the stalwart Kitzhaber, who has served the citizens or Oregon for 30 years. Within the last month, his popularity and his power base have eroded, most of his staff quit before Kitzhaber did, and supporters fled as Kitzhaber clung to power.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the scandal stems from Ms. Hayes using her position as unofficial first lady and Kitzhaber confidant for financial gain. She even had an office at the State Capital in Salem. State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a fellow Democrat who labeled the allegations against Kitzhaber “very serious — and troubling,” launched a criminal investigation. The state ethics commission also had begun an inquiry.

Ms. Hayes has been accused of using her close, long-term relationship with Kitzhaber to recruit business for her environmental consulting firm. Emails reveal Hayes was instructing state employees on how to implement a new policy while collecting $25,000 from an advocacy group promoting the new policy. It was also found that Hayes earned $118,000 over two years for a Clean Economy Development Center fellowship and that the money didn’t match what she reported on her income tax returns.

The United States Department of Justice has now subpoenaed state records and electronic messages from 2009 to present day concerning communications between Kitzhaber, Hayes, and 15 people in the governor’s staff, as well as records of payments made to Hayes and her company, 3E Strategies. This also revealed a marriage between Hayes and an Ethiopian national seeking immigration protection, for which Hayes was paid $5,000.

If the two marry, as expected, it will be the third marriage for both Kitzhaber, 67, and Hayes, 47.

[Image courtesy of the Daily Emerald]