Is there a better way for me to spend Valentine’s Day than offering my thoughts on this week’s tragic love story?
Of course there is. Last year, I spent the entire day in bed, alone, watching all of season two of House of Cards. But since I have to wait a couple of weeks before I can do that again, this is the second best thing I can do.
So what love story am I referring to? The only real option is the saga of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber.
As most of the country now knows, Kitzhaber is on his way out of office thanks to the actions of his fiance, who also just so happens to be the First Lady of Oregon.
So what actually happened?
The Oregonian, the state’s largest paper, described the situation as follows, in the editorial calling on Kitzhaber to resign (as many pointed out, this may very well have been the point of no return):
“To recite every reported instance in which [First Lady Cynthia] 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. After all, as he pointed out during Friday’s press conference, he’s been serving in public office on and off since the 1970s.
Consider, instead, what Oregonians have learned during only the last couple of weeks. First, Hayes received a combined $118,000 in 2011 and 2012 through the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center even as she served as an unpaid energy adviser to Kitzhaber. This income is not fully accounted for on tax forms Hayes provided to The Oregonian/OregonLive. Neither has the governor fully accounted for the money in ethics filings.
A big chunk of Hayes’ fellowship money, $75,000, came from the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation, a nonprofit that funds clean-energy initiatives such as the low carbon fuel standard. Implementing a low carbon fuel standard is a priority for both Kitzhaber and Democratic leaders in the Legislature. The session’s first public hearing on a bill to that end happened on Monday.
How did Hayes end up with a fellowship funded by an organization with an interest in clean-energy policy in Oregon? A Kitzhaber campaign adviser, Dan Carol, helped arrange the funding following Kitzhaber’s election in 2010, Budnick and Gunderson reported. Carol subsequently landed a position within the Kitzhaber administration. That position, Willamette Week has reported, pays more than $165,000, making Carol Kitzhaber’s highest-paid aide.”
This is coming from a newspaper that endorsed Kitzhaber in all four of his successful gubernatorial bids.
So how is it that Kitzhaber was reelected last November anyway?
That’s a great question, and I have no idea what the answer is. The man appeared to be bulletproof until this past week.
However, the only thing that ever moved the polls away from Kitzhaber and towards Republican Dennis Richardson before the 2014 election was what eventually turned into this scandal (Kitzhaber also won the Democratic primary with ease, crushing Ifeanyichukwu Diru by a massive margin).
Before the election, Oregonians knew that Cylvia Hayes had previous married an 18-year-old Ethiopian to allow him to stay in the country (for which she made $5,000). Kitzhaber claimed he had been unaware of this until the news reports disclosed it.
But wait, there’s more. Hayes also planned to buy land used to farm marijuana in northern Washington with a different ex-boyfriend of hers. This man blames her, and says that the farm was entirely her idea. True to form, Kitzhaber also claimed he had no idea about this until the press reports surfaced.
It is true that all of these stories were before Hayes was involved with Kitzhaber. However, her alleged abuse of her title as First Lady is completely illegal, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars she has made in that capacity by advising firms that were intent on doing business with the state is suspect, at best.
Finally (at least as far as we know), two Kitzhaber aides actually created jobs just for her, and “both arrangements involved foundations and organizations that had direct interests in influencing state policy in Oregon.”
Somehow I doubt Kitzhaber will be able to plead ignorant to this.
To put all of this in greater context, it’s worth asking what if all of this had happened to a Republican? Has a Republican governor recently got in trouble because of his actions, along with those of his wife?
That’s right. Look at Bob McDonnell. He’s been sentenced to two years in jail. What will happen to the star-crossed lovers of Oregon? Only time will tell.
Crazy, stupid love. Am I right?