As Shift reported, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is in hot water as allegations of corruption threaten to derail his political career. Yesterday, Kitzhaber attempted to get ahead of the mess by asking Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to conduct “a full and independent factual review of any and all questions or allegations as you see fit.” Rosenblum replied that her office had, in fact, already launched an investigation.
Of course, the real purpose of Kitzhaber’s letter was not to urge Oregon’s Attorney General to launch an investigation. It was to send the public a message and, to that end, Kitzhaber succeeded. The Oregonian points out that Kitzhaber’s letter offered a “response short of the necessary one – resignation – to a series of revelations for which his oft-repeated excuses have become insufficient to the point of absurdity.”
Kitzhaber recycles the same poor excuses he used to explain the scandal. His letter re-iterates the claim that he “sought to ensure a clear separation between Cylvia Hayes’ volunteer work as First Lady and her own paid professional work.” And that his mishandling of Hayes’ unethical activities is the result of “the unique challenge involved with an independent professional woman assuming the largely undefined role of First Lady.”
Kitzhaber concludes his letter by accusing the media of a “witch hunt.” He wrote “that the statutory process established to review questions of this nature, to determine the facts and to arrive at conclusions concerning whether laws have been violated has in no way stemmed the rush to judgment currently underway in the Oregon media.”
The Oregonian takes issue with Kitzhaber’s “witch hunt” accusations, responding that the “governor’s real problem isn’t a rush to judgment by reporters and editors bearing pitchforks and torches.” Rather, Kitzhaber’s problem “is the rush into the public sphere of information that has proved damning to the governor, whose office has sat on public records requests for months and whose fiancée is even now refusing to release emails that could be instructive.” The paper goes on to relate the latest finding in Kitzhaber’s on-going scandal. The Oregonian,
The latest revelation, reported Friday by Laura Gunderson of The Oregonian/OregonLive, shows the governor’s direct involvement in Hayes’ attempt to steer state policy even as she was being paid by an organization with an interest in that policy. In May 2013, Hayes signed a $25,000 contract with the nonprofit Demos to plug the Genuine Progress Indicator, a measure of state vitality that looks beyond economic activity to include things like environmental health. During the ensuing months, while collecting Demos’ money, she organized meetings with state officials in an effort to implement the alternative measure in Oregon.
And the governor? He all but ordered Michael Jordan, director of the Department of Administrative Services, to hire an expert named Sean McGuire to implement the GPI. McGuire had worked with Demos at one point as well and was part of an “Oregon GPI team” included in a proposal Hayes emailed to Jordan in October 2013. In a December email, Kitzhaber told Jordan, “The best person to do this work is Sean McGuire and we need to find a way to bring him on.” Naturally, he was brought on.
Kitzhaber would have never penned a letter asking the Attorney General’s office to launch an investigation if media outlets had not first investigated him and—despite the stonewalling that the Oregonian claims is happening—found him fully emerged in scandal. Kitzhaber writes that “no one wants these questions answered more than we do …” The Oregonian responds, “Kitzhaber and Hayes already know the answers, which presumably is why they’ve fought the release of public records that would provide Kitzhaber’s constituents some answers, too.”
Thus far Kitzhaber supporters have remained silent, even after the governor’s request for an investigation—an act the Oregonian labels as desperate and embarrassing. Democrats must, at some point, advise Kitzhaber to step down. The question is how much more of the scandal will unravel until they do so.