Oregon has long thought of itself as living on high moral ground, embracing that bastion of self-righteousness, environmentalism. The crown has taken some big dents in recent days. Governor John Kitzhaber, just into his fourth term, has resigned. His live-in girlfriend, Cylvia Hayes (also designated “first lady” in recent years; now fiancée), is out as the unsalaried “clean energy” advisor to the governor, with her own office in the State Capitol in Salem.
Things began to unravel in his reelection campaign last fall when the Willamette Weekly reported that Ms. Hayes had been married from 1997-2002 to an illegal Ethiopian alien and had been paid $5,000 for it. She admitted to this and described it as a mistake.
A few days later, KOIN, a Portland television station. reported that she had been involved in a plan to purchase land in Washington state for a marijuana plantation.
She also admitted to this but blamed it on being in an “abusive relationship with a dangerous man” (she soon left him).
It was said that Kitzhaber knew nothing of either matter before the media revelations.
These matters had hardly quieted down before scandal erupted in their faces. In late January, the Portland Tribune reported that while Ms. Hayes was in her role as confidante to the governor she was collecting $118,000 for a fellowship with the Clean Economy Development Center, as well as $25,000 paid to her consulting business, 3E Strategies.
Before Kitzhaber resigned, the state’s attorney general, a fellow Democrat, launched a criminal investigation into possible conflicts of interest. Now, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened one in case any federal laws have been violated. DOJ has subpoenaed records and emails relating to Kitzhaber, Hayes, and 15 others in his administration.
Whether charges will be filed is not known at this time. The former governor and Ms. Hayes should hope fervently they won’t be, for Oregonians hate official corruption about as much as they love environmentalism.
According to Justice Department data, Oregon is the nation’s “cleanest” state when it comes to corruption. Over the last four decades Oregon has seen fewer officials convicted of corruption than any other state.
Kitzhaber seems to believe that if virtuous thoughts count for anything, he will prevail. For days he refused to resign, convinced of his own goodness.
Finally, the pressure became too great. The leaders of the state senate and house of representatives—both Democrats—called on him to say it was time to go. So did the state treasurer, another Democrat, as did the state’s largest newspaper, the Oregonian, which had endorsed him in both the 2010 and 2014 elections.
Finally, late last week this week, he issued a statement announcing his resignation. No tearful television or radio address, but he did get a few things off his chest. He resorted to a device often used by a politician brought down by his own shortcomings: self-pity. He blamed the news media and disloyal political allies.
He said, “… it is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and independent verification of the allegations involved.” He added, “…even more troubling and on a very personal level as someone who has given 35 years of public service to Oregon—is that so many of my former allies in common cause have been willing to simply accept this judgment at its face value.”
So, a dose of self-righteousness to clear the conscience. Alas, here are some Words of warning someone should have given him quite some time ago: Pillow talk can be dangerous to your health.