Election 2020

In Surprise Development, Feds Drop Probe of Disgraced Former Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber

John Kitzhaber gives acceptance speech in 2010. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Disgraced former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber received some good news on Friday when the United States Department of Justice ended their investigation into his actions as governor, as well as those of his girlfriend, Cylvia Hayes. The DOJ announced that there would be no criminal charges. The investigation was prompted by allegations of influence peddling that led to him resigning shortly after winning an unprecedented fourth term as governor.

In a statement, the Democratic ex-governor said that he felt vindicated:

Over the last two years I have kept a low profile while resolving questions related to the federal investigation that began shortly after I was elected to a fourth term as Oregon’s Governor. I’m glad to report the U.S. Attorney has concluded the investigation and found nothing to pursue. As I have said from the beginning, I did not resign because I was guilty of any wrongdoing, but rather because the media frenzy around these questions kept me from being the effective leader I wanted and needed to be. Then there was the real investigation, not by reporters, but by people with subpoena power and the ability to look at everything in context. They decided there was nothing to pursue. So I’m back.

Dennis Richardson, Oregon’s secretary of state and Kitzhaber’s Republican opponent in the 2014 gubernatorial race, released the following statement:

Today, the US Attorney announced the decision not to proceed with the federal prosecution of former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. This decision does not change the fact that the Governor and Cylvia Hayes accepted money from those desiring to purchase influence.

It is unfortunate that the recent US Supreme Court decision regarding influence peddling by former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife has set the bar so high that it is now nearly impossible to bring federal charges in political corruption cases.

It is clear that Oregon and the nation still have a long way to go to restore trust in government. However, I’m grateful that Oregonians have placed me in a position to advocate for accountability and transparency in our state government.

The investigation began hours after Kitzhaber resigned, with a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury demanding all records of communications between Kitzhaber, Hayes, and a variety of environmental groups. The investigation stemmed from revelations that Kitzhaber had failed to disclose significant household income received by Hayes for consulting work. This led to charges of influence peddling through the governor’s office — charges that hung over Kitzhaber even after he was reelected.

Hayes had her fingerprints on a lot of areas of the governor’s policy and sought to increase her power and influence over Oregon’s environmental policy. The subpoena demanded all records of Kitzhaber’s environmental efforts, including the Genuine Progress Indicator, Pacific Coast Collaborative, Oregon Prosperity Initiative, low carbon fuel standards and sustainable economic development. Investigators also wanted any state records mentioning Hayes, her private consulting business, and her role in the governor’s office; her personal tax returns and those of her company from 2009 forward; and records of her use of state credit cards.

Hayes’ clients at the time included Demos, Resource Media, Energy Foundation, Rural Development Initiatives, Clean Economy Development Center, and Waste to Energy. She was paid $118,000 in consulting fees by the Clean Energy Development Center to promote clean energy businesses and jobs.

It didn’t end there. As reported by OregonLive,

With a different contract, emails released in response to a public records request revealed Hayes was directing state employees to implement an alternative economic measure called the Genuine Progress Indicator, the same policy Hayes was paid to promote by the New York advocacy group Demos. Emails also showed Kitzhaber telling a top state administrator “we need to find a way” to hire a man who knew Hayes and had worked for the group paying her.

According to Discover The Networks, Demos is a far left organization with some shady connections:

The president of Demos is Miles Rapoport, who belonged to the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s. Rapoport has longstanding ties to the Institute for Policy Studies and the Democratic Socialists of America; served as director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group from 1979-1984; helped establish the Campaign for America’s Future in 1996; is a defender of ACORN; strongly supports Barack Obama‘s political agendas; and sits on The American Prospect‘s board of directors.

The Demos board of trustees features such luminaries as Van Jones and Gina Glantz, along with high-ranking officials from the 
Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the
 National Council of La Raza, and several other left-wing organizations. One of Demos’s founding board members in 2000 was then-Illinois state senator Barack Obama.

None of the income was reported on federal financial disclosure forms that are required for all household income for candidates, which is the scandal that led to Kitzhaber’s downfall.

Time will tell if his reputation recovers and he’s once again able to influence Oregon politics.