The PJ Tatler

Dem Mega Donor Tied to Oregon Governor Scandal

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber was forced to resign over allegations that his fiancee received money from green organizations and companies who wanted to influence the state’s environmental policies.

The Washington Free Beacon has uncovered a web of connections between some of those green organizations and Democratic Party mega donor Tom Steyer. The hedge fund billionaire funded at least one of the groups seeking contracts from the state of Oregon, and several of his associates worked for the organization implicated in the scandal.

The controversy centers on Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. She was paid $118,000 by the Clean Economy Development Center (CEDC) to advocate for environmentalist policies in Oregon.

Hayes never disclosed those payments, despite acting as an informal adviser to the governor as he pushed a low-carbon fuel standard for the state.

Dan Carol, then a strategic adviser to CEDC, helped Hayes land the position. He was given a $165,000-per-year job in the Kitzhaber administration.

Kitzhaber is expected to resign today under intense scrutiny over the scandal. The scandal could extend beyond Oregon given Steyer’s involvement. Steyer has donated millions to a group that helped finance Hayes’ position, which could ensnare one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent fundraisers in the scandal.

Hayes was reportedly a fellow at the CEDC in 2011 and 2012, but as of late as August of last year, she was still listed on a since-deleted page of its website.

Also listed on that page was Kate Gordon, a member of the CEDC’s board. Gordon leads the energy and climate division of Next Generation, an environmental nonprofit group founded by Steyer.

Another director of the group, according to the website, was Mike Casey. Casey runs a media and public relations firm called Tigercomm that does polling and advertising work for Steyer’s Super PAC, NextGen Climate Action.

Casey reportedly wrote NextGen’s communications strategy for its involvement in elections in Massachusetts and Virginia in 2013. NextGen and another Steyer group, the CE Action Committee, paid Tigercomm $387,000 that year.

Former CEDC board members include Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union. His former assistant, Josie Mooney, is a strategic adviser to NextGen.

David Chen, a former member of CEDC’s advisory board, has hosted Steyer at events held by his investment firm, Equilibrium Capital. Steyer also sits on the board of the Center for American Progress, whose senior fellow in energy and environmental policy, Bracken Hendricks, was listed as a CEDC adviser.

As his team and others to which he has ties helped run CEDC, Steyer steered funds to the group financing Hayes’ fellowship.

Note how easily cash moves from politics, to activism, to politics, to lobbying — it’s almost seamless. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars from a very few, very rich individuals and closely held companies.

These guys make the Koch Brothers look like beginners.

Looking at the evidence separately, Steyer could claim some of these connections are tenuous, at best, and damn near invisible at worst. But if you step back and look at the overall picture, it’s fairly easy to see all the interchangeable parts of the same whole. I’m not saying there’s some overall “plan” or conspiracy at work here. In fact, we see something similar to the so-called military/industrial complex. The easy movement of people among government, foundations, think tanks, and boards and commissions set up by the Pentagon (of which there are dozens) is made possible through a web of common connections and interests. They have an outsized influence on the national security state because most of them, regardless of party, tend to have a similar outlook on national defense.

The same could be said of this “Environmental/Political Complex.” The axis revolves around a few rich men and companies who not only personally distribute funds and make available experts to be employed at other organizations, they have a say in how other organizations make grants and donations.

The Kitzhaber scandal has unmasked a layer or two of these connections that reveal Tom Steyer to be a bigger player in the environmental movement than even some activists may have realized. It will be fascinating to watch as the investigation into wrongdoing in the Oregon governor’s office continues to unravel the threads that bind the green movement together.