Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber Survive 'First Lady' Scandal?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber Survive 'First Lady' Scandal?

Article excerpt

For years, Governor John Kitzhaber has seemed the quintessential Oregon politician - relaxed and progressive without being particularly partisan.

A Dartmouth undergrad and emergency room physician who'd patched up injured loggers, and whose signature dress included jeans and cowboy boots with jacket and tie (even at his inauguration). A moderate Democrat who worked well with Republicans as state Senate president, then went on to be elected to the state's highest office four times - like California's Jerry Brown with a break between terms two and three.

But now Gov. Kitzhaber finds himself mired in what looks like a political scandal with a familiar twist: Romance.

Mounting press reports are focusing on past events in the life of his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, who's taken on the role of first lady. More to the point are allegations that Ms. Hayes used her position close to the governor to land clients for her environmental consulting business.

Recently-released emails show Ms. Hayes directed state employees how to implement a new policy while she was being paid $25,000 by an advocacy group to promote it.

"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 Oregonian, the state's leading newspaper, reported Friday. "The emails, released by the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, also show a deeper involvement by Kitzhaber than state officials had previously described."

Earlier, EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group had reported that Hayes earned $118,000 over two years for a fellowship with a green energy group. The Oregonian reported that the money didn't match her earnings reported on her tax returns, which she'd previously given to the newspaper.

The spotlight on financial issues also led to Hayes' revelation that she accepted about $5,000 to illegally marry an immigrant seeking immigration benefits in the 1990s, which she called "the biggest mistake of my life." Later, she admitted she bought a remote property with the intent to grow marijuana.

But if there's more trouble ahead for Kitzhaber and Hayes, it's likely to focus on the financial issue - personal gain resulting from political influence. …

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