Less than a month after his inauguration for an unprecedented fourth term Gov. John Kitzhaber has been forced to resign in disgrace. That resignation is supposed to be effective today. For many this will be a day to gloat over the downfall of a man who accomplished virtually nothing over three terms as governor and yet remained a Democrat icon simply because of his looks – a great head of hair, Levis and cowboy boots.
But I would suggest that this is a day to recognize that there are other forces at work here and that they, as much as Mr. Kitzhaber and his paramour Cylvia Hayes, should be held accountable.
First there should be a recognition that many of those who wrap themselves in the cloak of the public good – righting wrongs, protecting the little guy, and raising the bar for moral rectitude – are just as capable of suborning public corruption as the corporations they all love to hate. In this instance we are talking about the likes of environmentalists, labor unions and civil rights activists. To be sure we are not talking about guys in Birkenstocks but rather those who have found riches in government support of environmental protection. We are not talking about the “blue collar” men and women who work but rather the union bosses who spend their wages to buy influence and comfort for themselves. Nor are we talking about the Rosa Parks and Martin Luther Kings of the civil rights movement but rather the parasites, race baiters, bullyboys and shakedown artists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who have perverted a noble cause.
The downfall of Mr. Kitzhaber began when Ms. Hayes, with assistance from some of Mr. Kitzhaber’s friends and supporters, secured a contract with Clean Economy Development Center (a trade group which receives funding from green energy providers and their suppliers) while simultaneously advising a number of Mr. Kitzhaber’s agencies on environmental issues. Given that Mr. Kitzhaber identified Ms. Hayes as Oregon’s First Lady, it would be safe to assume that she spoke for Mr. Kitzhaber when advising those agencies. Regardless, the conflicts of interest are so clear that even the Democrat Attorney General and the Obama Administration were spurred to opening criminal and civil investigations. The situation reeks of the same conduct that put former Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife in prison in Virginia recently. And quite frankly that is what should happen here.
But room in adjacent prison cells should be held for any official of Clean Economy Development Center (and its supporters) or Mr. Kitzhaber’s friends who had a hand in suborning this public corruption. Those in the environmental community who stood to profit from Ms. Hayes’ advice to state agencies given while under contract with the Clean Economy Development Center and who provided material support for her engagement are just as guilty as is she.
And finally there is the complicity of Oregon’s major media outlets. Much of what is known today was known prior to the gubernatorial election last November and yet, with the exception of Willamette Week, they remained studiously uninterested while they focused on endorsing Mr. Kitzhaber candidacy. This is not the first time for the Oregonian. In fact it is the third time that the Oregonian has turned its back on known scandals involving major Democrat politicians. (If there is an instance in which they have ignored scandals involving Republican politicians, I am unaware.)
In a December 2007 column I wrote about the rape scandal surrounding former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt (D):
“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.”
And after the Oregonian failed to investigate a sex scandal involving a teenager and then Portland Mayor Sam Adams (D) while endorsing his re-election, I wrote in a January 2009 column:
“Third, the governing class, including the Oregonian, covered up this story at the critical moment when something could have been done by the voters. Bob Ball repeatedly raised this issue during his exploratory campaign against Adams. He met with the Oregonian but the Oregonian refused to pursue the issue. In its own recent editorial calling on Adams to resign, the Oregonian came as close as it ever will to admitting a mistake:
“But it was a lie, Adams now admits, cooked up to save his political career.
“Sad to say, plenty of us bought it and, for that, we owe Ball an apology. Yet, even this week, Adams felt an underlying justification for his tactics back then because Ball accused him of criminality instead of mere sexual exploitation of a callow young man.” [Emphasis added]
“That’s not good enough. The Oregonian didn’t do its job for all of the wrong reasons. Sam Adams, like the Oregonian, is a long time member of the Portland political establishment. He, unlike his accuser Bob Ball, is a member of the liberal Democrat machine – a machine for which the Oregonian routinely acts as publicist. Adams and the Oregonian are “insiders” and the Oregonian never, until it is unavoidable, criticizes an insider – particularly if it might cost the “insiders” a political victory. While the Oregonian can recount the deceit now and criticize the “all-out public relations assault,” it still doesn’t acknowledge that it participated unabashedly in that assault. If the state’s major newspaper doesn’t exist to hold politicians accountable for what purpose does it exist? More and more Oregonians who watch this scenario unfold routinely are asking this questions and making the decision to stop reading the Oregonian.”
And now, the Oregonian is knee deep again in protecting a member of the club – Mr. Kitzhaber.
It is uncertain whether Mr. Kitzhaber had actual knowledge of his fiancée’s dealings. He has a history of benign neglect when it comes to virtually anything other than fly fishing and socialized medicine – it is probably the reason that he has accomplished nothing in his twelve years as governor other than the failed Oregon Healthcare Plan which collapsed of its own weight and the spectacular disaster known as Cover Oregon in which Mr. Kitzhaber spent over $250 Million on an internet program that failed to enroll a single person for coverage under Obamacare.
Those elected to higher office have broader authority than does the average citizen. They are responsible for the integrity of the governmental process. Violations of that responsibility should bring swift judgment and punishment – a punishment greater than merely resigning from office in disgrace. And the investigation and pursuit of criminal charges should extend beyond Mr. Kitzhaber and Ms. Hayes to include all of those who assisted in the abuse of power by either or both of them. There is no punishment available for the members of the press who chose political ideology over truth except to recognize them for what they are – press agents for Oregon’s brand of Democrat liberalism.