The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Controversy expands over Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber’s fiancée

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, left, is sworn in as Oregon governor while Cylvia Hayes stands at right as the 76th Oregon Legislature begins in Salem, Ore. (Don Ryan/AP)

UPDATE, 3:55 P.M.

After Kitzhaber asked her for a “full and independent factual review” of the controversy, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum responded with a short, three-sentence letter, The Oregonian first reported.

“Thank you for your letter,” she writes. “My office has already opened an investigation into this matter. I appreciate your intent to cooperate fully.”

The past few weeks have been rough for Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Little more than a week ago, Kitzhaber, a Democrat, held a news conference to address concerns over the role his fiancée Cylvia Hayes played in crafting policy even as she was paid to consult with outside groups. But it seemed only to make things worse. Then, the Oregonian newspaper called for his resignation. The paper’s reporters have described the controversy as having “severely damaged” Kitzhaber’s reputation and, now, new e-mails add more fuel to the fire. The Oregonian’s Laura Gunderson reports:

The emails appear to erase any doubt that, as first lady, Hayes was taking money in her private role and pushing the same policy in her public one. The governor’s office has conceded only that Hayes’ roles as first lady and policy adviser to Gov. John Kitzhaber and as a private consultant put her in a gray area.
The emails, released by the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, also show a deeper involvement by Kitzhaber than state officials had previously described.

The latest cache of e-mails obtained by the paper show that Hayes was involved in the development of an alternative economic measure, a Genuine Progress Indicator, even as she was paid by the New York advocacy group Demos, which advocates for adoption of the GPI. Demos has distanced itself from the scandal, saying in a statement to the paper on Friday night that “we should not have trusted Ms. Hayes to carefully monitor the balance between her public and private roles.”

This isn’t the first time Hayes has caused trouble for Kitzhaber. As we wrote last week, she has for years been a source of political headaches, using gubernatorial staff for personal tasks and pushing the boundaries of ethical guidelines as she consulted for outside groups on policy matters. Shortly before Kitzhaber was elected to a fourth term, it was revealed that, in the late 1990s, Hayes illegally accepted cash to marry an immigrant seeking to remain in the United States and purchased land with a boyfriend — an abusive one, she says — with the intent to set up an illegal marijuana growing operation.

A Kitzhaber resignaton — which Republicans have called for — would be historic for the state: He would become the first Oregon governor to leave office early under the cloud of scandal, Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics reports.

Read more:

John Kitzhaber controversy: Cylvia Hayes directed state officials on policy she was being paid to promote, emails show

The long, troubled history of Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber’s fiancee, Cylvia Hayes