Politics

Oregon’s Biggest Paper Calls For Democratic Gov. Kitzhaber To Resign

Oregon’s largest newspaper is calling for Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber to resign in the wake of reports that the governor and his fiancé have used his office for private gain, helping environmental groups push their agenda.

“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,” writes the Oregonian editorial board. “If he wants to serve his constituents he should resign.”

Kitzhaber’s fiancé, Cylvia Hayes, has been a lightning rod of controversy ever since she admitted taking money to marry foreigners in order to get them greencards– an act that is highly illegal. But the scandal has only grown.

Most recently, it was reported that Hayes was paid $118,000 by an environmental group in 2011 and 2012 to lobby for global warming regulations on transportation fuel, called a low-carbon fuel standard. She received the money while serving as an unpaid energy adviser to the Kitzhaber administration, and none of it was accounted for on her tax forms or on Kitzhaber’s ethics filings.

Hayes told the Portland Tribune her “primary work was to implement communications strategies promoting clean economy development.” Hayes also may have used the governor’s mansion for an event for the group that was paying her.

The same environmental nonprofit, the D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center (CEDC), also paid Hayes for a fellowship, according to news reports. But the CEDC actually had its tax exempt status pulled by the IRS for failing to file tax returns in 2014 after Hayes’ fellowship had ended.

But another environmental group, the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation, directly hired Hayes in 2013 to create a green energy communications strategy. The Portland Tribune reports the contract was worth $40,000. The Energy Foundation had also funded part of Hayes’s fellowship at CDEC. The Energy Foundation is connected to San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, a prominent environmentalist who has also been pushing global warming policies in California.

The story goes deeper. The main contact responsible for getting Hayes a fellowship with a green group, Dan Carol, was subsequently given a full-time job in the Kitzhaber administration. Carol is now the highest paid administration employee, making $165,000 per year.

The Kitzhaber administration has been pushing a low-carbon fuel standard, the same policy Hayes was paid to promote. Last year, Kitzhaber signed a deal with the governors of Washington and California to implement climate policies, but he did this while dating someone being paid to promote those policies.

The low-carbon fuel standard has become such a tainted issue that Republican state legislators are calling for discussions on the issue to be postponed as allegations mount against Hayes.

“Ms. Hayes received payments to influence the governor on, among other things, the low carbon fuel standard program overseen by the Department of Environmental Quality,” said state House Republican Leader Mike McLane. “Due to the investigations on the conflict of interest and the many unanswered questions that remain, SB 324 can no longer be evaluated on merit alone.”

“For the Democrats to run this bill right at the start of session is irresponsible and harmful to Oregon families, given the cloud of secrecy surrounding its conception and advocacy,” echoed state Republican Sen. Ted Ferrioli. “The Legislature should be focused on the priorities that matter to Oregon taxpayers, including a transportation package that improves public safety and infrastructure for all Oregonians.”

Kitzhaber has removed Hayes from his administration, though they are still engaged. The governor has also said he will not resign over the scandal.

“Is he so oblivious that he had no idea that campaign advisers were helping his girlfriend line up employment marked by ethical red flags?” the Oregonian asks. “Is he really so clueless that he had no idea how much money Hayes collected through her fellowship, which would explain his apparently incomplete ethics filings? Or, alternatively, did he know and fail to act? Both possibilities are damning, and it’s difficult to imagine alternatives that are not.”

“Whether through gross inattention or complicity, Kitzhaber has broken faith with Oregonians,” the editorial board writes. “His career in Oregon politics is one of great accomplishment, but his past success does not excuse the mess he has made of the office with which Oregonians entrusted him. He is now less a governor than a source of unending distraction. He can no longer lead Oregon effectively and should resign. His constituents deserve better.”

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