Kulongoski politics: New Year, Same Old B.S.

Is anyone surprised that the Oregon State Bar ducked on the complaint that Gov. Kulongoski lied about whether he knew of former Gov. Goldschmidt’s nefarious conduct? Neither was I.

We got our first clue when the Oregonian published a story on the pending ethics complaint against Gov. Ted Kulongoski with a headline that states, “No Evidence to Show Governor Lied”. As the unofficial voice of Oregon’s ruling elite, it was necessary to set the tone for what was to come.

It’s no different than with the original story about former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

When Goldschmidt resigned his position as head of the Board of Higher Education to avoid the looming scandal of his repeated rape of a fourteen year old girl, the Oregonian dutifully reported Goldschmidt’s press release saying that he had resigned for “health” reasons. The Oregonian did this in spite of having access to the exact same information on Goldschmidt as did Willamette Week which later that same day broke its Pulitzer Prize winning story detailing the sordid conduct of Goldschmidt over an extended period of time as well as his efforts to cover his tracks by making payments to his victim. It was only after Willamette Week broke the story on its web page that the Oregonian finally scrapped Goldschmidt’s press release and coughed up the actual story.

In the aftermath it appears that the Oregonian had information that could have led to the exposure of Goldschmidt years prior to the Willamette Week story and chose not to pursue it. So it should come as no surprise that the Oregonian published a story on the pending ethics complaint against Gov. Ted Kulongoski with a headline that states, “No Evidence to Show Governor Lied” . Or that it followed its headline with this stunning conclusion: “No one has been able to provide direct evidence that Kulongoski lied about what he heard about Goldschmidt.”

Hold it Knute, what about the sworn testimony of Fred Leonhardt stating that he told Kulongoski about Goldschmidt’s rape of the fourteen year old on more than one occasion. That constitutes direct evidence. It is the testimony of an eyewitness and, therefore, direct evidence. Now there may not yet be any corroborating evidence, but that does not mean that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that Kulongoski lied.

But it set the tone for the State Bar of Oregon’s press release announcing that it wasn’t going to pursue the complaint against Kulongoski. Apparently the State Bar did little or no investigation other than read the sworn statement of Leonhardt and the response by Kulongoski. The State Bar apparently declared it a draw without undertaking any critical examination.

In cases such as these where there is contradictory direct evidence (I said so, no you didn’t) there are a whole range of options and secondary evidence that can come into play. As the “trier of fact” the State Bar had the ability (and maybe the duty) to determine which party was telling the truth.

The trier of fact can consider the motives of the parties providing the contradictory evidence. In this case, despite months of investigations, there is no evidence suggesting an ulterior motive on the part of Fred Leonhardt. In fact, the original sworn testimony of Leonhardt dealt with Sheriff Bernie Guisto and the references to Kulongoski were simply a by-product. Leonhardt and Kulongoski were long time friends and apparently had worked on political campaigns together. In fact, Leonhardt apparently worked on several of Kulongoski’s campaigns including the one for attorney general and his first gubernatorial election.

In contrast, Kulongoski very much has a motive to lie. His license to practice law is at risk. His political life will be virtually over if it is established that he covered up for Oregon’s most notorious child molester. His ability to govern will be severely limited. Yes, I know, he can’t run for governor again but he is currently out actively campaigning for Hillary Clinton and if she is elected he is a likely candidate for a federal appointment.

The trier of fact can also examine the propensity of each witness to tell the truth. In the instance case Fred Leonhardt has provided a sworn statement with a myriad of factual details surrounding his assertions about the conversations between he and Kulongoski about Goldschmidt’s predatory acts. Those details have been known to the public for months now and, to date, they have not been refuted. In many aspects those details have been corroborated by other persons referenced in Leonhardt’s statement. Leonhardt also took and passed a lie detector test and while such tests are not admissible even in an administrative hearing they certainly weigh heavily in the court of public opinion.

In contrast, Kulongoski has stated that his relationship with Leonhardt was de minimus and ended years ago. The Oregonian’s own Steve Duin has detailed the numerous instances in which Kulongoski has lied about the events surrounding these accusations. As Steve Duin noted,

“Never mind that various other aspects of Leonhardt’s story have been confirmed by a half dozen witnesses. Kulongoski, meanwhile, has lied about the duration of his friendship with Leonhardt, as I reported in a Nov. 20 column.”

It is exactly those kinds of lies that the State Bar could use to determine Kulongoski’s veracity.

It was like déjà vu all over again. Goldschmidt escaped criminal responsibility because others maintained their silence until the statutes of limitation ran out. He escaped other official scrutiny of his activities by tendering his resignation from the State Bar. The State Bar could have, and should have, refused to accept the resignation and proceeded with disciplinary action. In the course of that proceeding, the State Bar could have determined who else was complicit – particularly other lawyers, including Kulongoski. But the State Bar ducked that one too and meekly accepted the resignation and closed the books.

After all, what lawyer wants to practice before the appellate judges of Oregon when (s)he knows that most have been appointed by Kulongoski and his Democrat predecessors dating back to Goldschmidt. Which lawyers want to stand as Kulongoski’s accusers when one of the members of the Supreme Court is Kulongoski’s former law partner and another worked for Kulongoski at the attorney general’s office.

The lawyers of Oregon are acutely aware of the power of Oregon’s entrenched political machine – a machine that began with Goldschmidt has had continued through today.

But then again who ever said there’s justice in Oregon for Oregon’s political ruling class. First Goldschmidt escaped accountability and now so has his protégé Ted Kulongoski. So what else is new?