The Burial of the Kitzhaber Scandal

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

The aftermath of the scandal that forced Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) to resign is like watching a cat bury its poop – a lot of litter is scratched up to cover the mess but the poop is still there and the stench is still redolent.

On its face, this is a run of the mill government corruption scandal – money was taken by a government official to influence government actions that would benefit those who gave the money. The “government official” in this instance was Mr. Kitzhaber’s live-in paramour, Cylvia Hayes, whom he routinely identified as “the First Lady.” Ms. Hayes accepted over $200,000 from the Clean Economy Development Center and tens of thousands of dollars from other environmental activists while providing “environmental guidance” to Mr. Kitzhaber’s administrative agencies – presumptively at the behest of Mr. Kitzhaber since this was his “First Lady.”

But this is really much more. Mr. Kitzhaber is the past and current scion of a liberal Democrat machine that had its roots in the administration of former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt (D). It has governed Oregon unchecked for almost three decades. It has so completely overwhelmed the political process that now every statewide office and all but one congressional office is held by Democrats – all of whom owe their nominations, financing and elections to the same Democrat machine. Its base is in Portland where it controls absolutely the Portland city and Multnomah County governments.

The machine is populated by Democrat politicians, public employee union officials, environmental activists and, strangely, a gaggle of business executives – primarily from Portland. (I don’t want to ignore the various other advocacy groups that populate Democrat politics – abortion advocates, minorities, gays, poverty advocates and others – who provide noise and publicity but little in terms of actual direction.)

Compared to the size of its base, its leadership is a relatively small cadre. They all know each other, went to school with each other, married each other, had affairs with each other, hired each other and have risen to positions of prominence in business and government as a result. And they are corrupt.

The corruption extends to those benefiting from government largesse – that would include the public employee unions, those who contract with government for a whole variety of goods and services, the activists who rely on government for funds and grants to this or that “good cause”, and the environmental lobby who rely on government subsidies for their very commercial existence. It includes those who benefit from government action that either shelters them from governmental burdens (taxes and rules or regulations) or imposes disproportionate burdens on their competitors. And finally, it includes those who acquire power and position simply for the sake of acquiring power and position and who use that power and position primarily to retain power and position rather than pursue the commonweal of citizens. And in Oregon, the mainstream press is a part of that cadre and serves primarily to extol their virtues, bury their misdeeds and savage their opponents. (For the past decade the responsibility of “government watchdog” has fallen singularly to Willamette Week – an alternative newspaper primarily noted for its “personal classifieds” but which is directed by Richard Meeker, a fearless muckracker, and staffed by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nigel Jaquiss. (Surely Mr. Jaquiss will win another Pulitzer for his unearthing of this scandal while the other media outlets sat on their hands.)

While Mr. Kitzhaber is toast and no one in power actually gives a damn about Ms. Hayes (she was always more interloper than insider), the rest of the machine needs protection – and protection they will get.

The narrative has already been decided. Here is the headline: Old John Kitzhaber Seduced by a Gold Digger Twenty Years his Junior and Blind to her Machinations is Now Alone and Disgraced.

The investigation will continue but primarily focused on Ms. Hayes. In the end she will go to jail. In the end Mr. Kitzhaber will not – he will be forgiven for falling to Ms. Hayes’ seduction. He will be deemed to have suffered enough by losing his high office and “the love of his life” (actually the third “love of his life”). At worst, Mr. Kitzhaber will be allowed to plead guilty to some form of public corruption for which he will receive a sentence of deferred prosecution resulting in dismissal of the charges upon completion of the deferment period.

And for the rest of those who had an intimate involvement in this corruption scandal? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Not even a disclosure of the names of those who benefited from Ms. Hayes actions. All of those who could do something about the breadth of this corruption will not – they are all a part of the machine that enables it.