Tags: John Kitzhaber | oregon | fiancee | green energy | democrats

Corruption Scandal Engulfs Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber's Young Fiancée

Corruption Scandal Engulfs Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber's Young Fiancée
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, right, and his companion, Cylvia Hayes. (Hiro Komae/AP)

Friday, 13 February 2015 09:06 AM

Embattled Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber was hanging onto his office by a thread on Friday as an influence-peddling scandal involving his future third wife spiraled out of control.

Kitzhaber’s much younger fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, has been accused of using her relationship with the Democratic governor to land lucrative consulting contracts for her green energy consulting business, according to reports.

Kitzhaber is facing a political and personal firestorm on four major fronts, even as he flip-flops on a decision to step down.

The 67-year-old governor is under increasing pressure from lawmakers in his own party to resign, while the state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, has called for his ouster.

The state attorney general has launched a criminal and ethics probe into Kitzhaber, while his impending marriage to Hayes has been thrown into doubt since the crisis blew up in her face. It was also revealed that she had secretly married an 18-year-old Ethiopian in the 1990s to help get him a green card in exchange for $5,000.

Added to his problems is the fact that Republican state lawmakers have called for the governor to postpone new fuel legislation, which would keep Oregon’s low carbon fuel standards in place instead of expiring this year, The Washington Times reported.

The top two Democrats in Oregon’s Legislature, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, held a meeting with the four-term governor this week to ask for his resignation.

"Unfortunately, the current situation has become untenable, and I cannot imagine any scenario by which things improve," said State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, a Democrat. "Oregon deserves a governor who is fully focused on the duties of state."

The alleged corruption scandal escalated this week when it was claimed that the governor planned to step down and then abruptly changed his mind, according to The Oregonian/Oregon Live.

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, who would replace Kitzhaber, had fed the rumors that the governor planned to call it a day when she rushed back from the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting in Washington, D.C., even though she’s the organization's president.

Kitzhaber had called Brown on Tuesday, informing her that she had to return to Portland for a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible, according to the reports.

After she flew in Wednesday, the governor's staffers planned for his imminent resignation announcement.

But Kitzhaber decided to pull back from resigning after meeting with his attorney, Portland lawyer Jim McDermott, and his thrice-married, 47-year-old fiancée, The Washington Post reported.

Kitzhaber, who was re-elected by a wide margin three months ago, has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he and his first lady-in-waiting had tried to avoid conflicts between her public and private roles.

Hayes, who served as an unpaid policy adviser for the governor’s office on green energy policies, has not publicly addressed the accusations.

But Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said, "Recent allegations relating to Gov. Kitzhaber and Ms. Hayes are very serious — and troubling. My office is considering all of our legal options to ensure that we are best serving the state."

The alleged corruption scandal centers on $118,000 Hayes collected in fellowship and consulting fees from the Clean Economy Development Center, a Washington-based nonprofit, for her work on low-carbon fuel standard legislation in Oregon, a policy she was also pushing to officials in the state, according to reports.

The center was later shut down after the IRS dropped its tax-exempt status, but before that happened it was given funding for Hayes’ fellowship from another nonprofit, the Energy Foundation.

The Energy Foundation hired Hayes directly in 2013 for communications work, giving her a contract of $50,000, The Washington Times said, noting that she never disclosed any of the payments on her ethics filings for the governor’s office.

"The scandal carries larger repercussions for national Democrats, who have worked hard to put to rest a controversy in President Obama’s tenure over the failures of taxpayer-funded green energy companies such as Solyndra that had political ties to party bigwigs," wrote the Times' Kellan Howell.

"It also has renewed questions about whether the nation’s embrace of clean energy has become a lobbying bonanza that enriched some well-heeled Democrats."

CLARIFICATION: The original version of this article, as well as other media stories, reported on an alleged link between environmentalist Tom Steyer and a fellowship and consulting fees collected by Gov. Kitzhaber’s fiancée Cylvia Hayes, through the former non-profit entity – Clean Economy Development Center – that funded Ms. Hayes, who in turn, is alleged to have failed to disclose such payments on ethics filings. Upon learning that funds provided by Mr. Steyer’s “TomKat” Charitable Trust to another non-profit – Energy Foundation – were restricted and were not part of the funds that could have financed Ms. Hayes’ fellowship, Mr. Steyer’s name was removed from the article, since there is no link to Mr. Steyer.

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Embattled Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber was hanging onto his office by a thread on Friday as an influence-peddling scandal involving his future third wife, and linked to billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, spiraled out of control.
John Kitzhaber, oregon, fiancee, green energy, democrats
Friday, 13 February 2015 09:06 AM
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