The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The reporting that led Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber to resign

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber kisses his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, after being sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term on Jan. 12 in Salem, Ore. (Don Ryan/Associated Press)

UPDATED Feb. 13, 3:19 p.m.: Gov. Kitzhaber announced on Friday that he would resign after months of questions over his fiancee’s private business dealings. 

The Oregonian editorial board wants Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) to resign.

The board writes that the long-serving governor’s credibility “has evaporated,” noting a recent report by Oregonian reporters that two Kitzhaber aides helped create lucrative jobs for his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes. “If he wants to serve his constituents he should resign,” the editorial board wrote, noting that this is just the latest in a long string of controversies surrounding the governor’s longtime girlfriend.

To recite every reported instance in which Hayes, ostensibly under Kitzhaber’s watchful eye, has used public resources, including public employee time and her “first lady” title, in pursuit of professional gain would require far more space than we have here and, besides, repeat what most readers already know. Suffice it to say there’s a pattern, and the person who bears the responsibility for allowing it to form and persist is Kitzhaber, who should know better.

Indeed, other local papers have called on the governor to take action. In a late-December editorial, the Eugene Register-Guard called in an editorial for Kitzhaber to consider appointing a special prosecutor to settle questions about Hayes’s business dealings.

While The Oregonian’s editorial board may not have had space, we have plenty of it online, so here’s a look at a few of the big political headaches Hayes has caused for Kitzhaber, starting with the most recent:

Hayes earned at least $143,000 from jobs arranged by Kitzhaber’s associates

The Oregonian’s Nick Budnick and Laura Gunderson reported this week that two Kitzhaber aides connected Hayes with well-paying jobs just as they joined the governor’s administration, earning Hayes $25,000 over five months for one and $118,000 over two years from another. (The latter was first uncovered by Hillary Borrud, of the Portland Tribune.) All told, Hayes has collected at least $213,000 in various consulting fees since Kitzhaber took office in 2011.

The first job was a five-month stint with Rural Development Initiatives, a nonprofit promoting rural jobs, that was arranged in part by Greg Wolf, currently Kitzhaber’s deputy chief of staff for field implementation.

After that, Dan Carol, a campaign adviser to Kitzhaber, helped secure funding for a fellowship for Hayes with the Clean Economy Development Center, a clean energy nonprofit. Hayes also was advising Kitzhaber’s office on similar issues. And, as other publications have pointed out, her own admission of those earnings — $30,000 in 2011 and $88,000 in 2012 — appears to have gone unreported on her 2012 tax return.

On Friday, Kitzhaber held a news conference to address those issues, promising that Hayes will have no role with his office through his fourth term, which just began. Kitzhaber repeatedly deferred questions to Hayes, who is traveling in Europe.

Records show Hayes used gubernatorial staff for personal tasks and pushed back on ethical guidelines

In 2013, the governor’s chief of staff and his general counsel both wrote in a set of conflict-of-interest guidelines that Hayes should not use the “first lady” title in her private business dealings, Willamette Week, an alternative weekly, reported in October. One month later, a new version was issued, dropping both that requirement and another that prohibited the use of the governor’s mansion for that private work. A spokesman told the publication that earlier directives were drafts and that the latter guideline was the final version.

Then, in December, a cache of public records released to the Oregonian showed that Hayes had repeatedly used Kitzhaber’s office for personal matters, including tasking them “with mundane personal responsibilities ranging from helping sneak cats into a hotel room to complaining over a delayed flight,” the Oregonian reported.

Hayes admits to accepting cash to marry an immigrant who wanted his green card . . .

Weeks before Kitzhaber was elected to his fourth term last fall, Hayes admitted to illegally accepting $5,000 to marry a young Ethiopian immigrant in 1997 so he could continue living in the United States. The marriage was first reported by Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week.

“I want to be clear today — I was associating with the wrong people,” she said in a statement at the time. “I was struggling to put myself through college and was offered money in exchange for marrying a young person who had a chance to get a college degree himself if he were able to remain in the United States.”

. . . and buying property for an illegal marijuana ‘grow operation’

Just days later, Hayes also admitted to jointly purchasing land in 1997 — with a former boyfriend — intended to be used as a marijuana “grow operation.” In her admission, Hayes again noted that “I was in the middle of a very difficult and unstable period of my life.”

I am not proud of that brief period of time — I was involved in an abusive relationship with a dangerous man,” she said in a statement. “We lived together for several  months on the property in Okanogan that was intended to be the site of a marijuana grow operation that never materialized.”

Hayes and Kitzhaber’s controversial 2013 trip to Bhutan

As the state legislature debated tax and pension reform, Kitzhaber and Hayes took a sudden and controversial trip to Bhutan for a conference on that country’s Gross National Happiness indicator. Hayes secured a $25,000 contract with Demos, whose director of policy and research she met in Bhutan, according to a long Willamette Week profile.

While on contract to Demos, Hayes attended conferences and delivered speeches across the country. She was introduced not as a paid consultant to Demos but as Oregon’s first lady. The work included a trip to Baltimore, where she moderated a Demos panel that featured Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs.

The alternative weekly also noted that Hayes “keeps a desk in the governor’s office, attends senior staff meetings and communicates regularly with agency directors.”

If Kitzhaber completes his current term, he would become the second-longest-serving governor in U.S. history. The Oregonian’s editorial staff, however, argues that he shouldn’t be allowed to claim that record:

Whether through gross inattention or complicity, Kitzhaber has broken faith with Oregonians. 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.

Read more:

First Lady Inc., — Willamette Week

John Kitzhaber must resign: Editorial — the Oregonian

Cylvia Hayes scandal: Kitzhaber associates helped create jobs for her that had Oregon influence in mind — the Oregonian

First lady’s consulting work leaves some scratching their heads — Portland Tribune

John Kitzhaber: Cylvia Hayes won’t play political role in administration — The Oregonian

Cylvia Hayes: new records show First Lady used Kitzhaber staff for mundane tasks — The Oregonian

Kitzhaber’s Office Bent State Ethics Standards to Suit First Lady Cylvia Hayes, Records Show — Willamette Week