Scandal has come to Oregon

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

Now half of Oregon’s governor’s in the past three decades have been embroiled in scandals that include alleged criminal behavior

A column in the Washington Post last August cited Oregon as being the best state in America for its lack of corruption. The column noted that “in Oregon, strong oversight and audit rules ensure that state officials keep their hands out of the cookie jar,” and that “there were fewer corruption convictions in Oregon than in any other state.” It was a point of pride for Oregonians, and confirmed how we generally view ourselves.

When we think of scandal and corruption, we think of places like Illinois, New Jersey or Louisiana – not Oregon. Places like Illinois earn that reputation through decades of problems. A 2012 report from the University of Illinois at Chicago noted that “For a century and a half, public corruption has been a shameful aspect of both Illinois and Chicago politics,” and that “more than half of the state’s governors have been convicted in the past forty-two years.”

Oregon Capitol at night - Ides of March 2015

Oregon Capitol at night – Ides of March 2015 (Dan Lucas)

Oregon is still no Illinois, but the specter of scandal and corruption has come to Oregon. The fact that more than half of Illinois’ governors have been convicted over a four decade period is troubling, but now half of Oregon’s governor’s in the past three decades have been embroiled in scandals that include alleged criminal behavior. From January 1987 to January 2015 Oregon was served by four governors: Neil Goldschmidt, Barbara Roberts, John Kitzhaber and Ted Kulongoski.  Goldschmidt was accused of the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl, and now Kitzhaber has his own list of troubles.

Willamette Week has recently reported that emails reveal that Kitzhaber “lawyered up” two days before his re-election last November and that by January his lawyers were concerned about a possible criminal investigation. His lawyers concerns have borne out.

There are now investigations underway or pending into former Gov. John Kitzhaber and former First Lady Cylvia Hayes by the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI, by the IRS, by the Oregon Department of Justice and by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. The Oregonian’s Laura Gunderson said the FBI-led investigation is “what looks to be the largest criminal investigation of a public official in Oregon.”

The Oregonian reported that the federal grand jury has subpoenaed Oregon’s own Department of Justice for documents on Kitzhaber and Hayes — a move that legal experts described as “unusual” and a former Oregon Attorney General described as “massive and unprecedented.”

Those investigations are on top of the four federal investigations already underway after the Cover Oregon debacle wasted more than $300 million in federal funds. The four federal investigations “are being conducted by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. House oversight committee.”

Many Oregonians were taken aback by the Kitzhaber scandal and resignation. They are now just looking to put it all behind us, but this still unfolding scandal is far from over. We don’t know yet the results of all the investigations underway. We don’t know yet what wrongdoing or negligence by other Oregon government officials will be uncovered by these investigations.

Oregon needs to take a hard look at how we got here. We need to redraw those hard lines that have become blurred through complacency.

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  • Organized ORegonized $ucks

    Power [one sided] corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    • .

      Out, out damned ORegonized CRIME.

      • et al resultz

        Bingo, Bureno, Bongo!

  • Larry George

    All of this has to make you proud to be a Democrat and voted Kitzhaber back in. Just think, if we had voted Richardson in, we wouldn’t look like such idiots to the rest of the country.

    • Eric Blair

      Perhaps the Republicans should offer up a candidate that appeals at least to a majority of the independents? At the very least, such a candidate is going to have to be socially liberal.

      Imagine, instead, that we had elected Jason Levin of the Pacific Green Party.

      The burgeoning issues with Cylvia kept me from voting for Kitzhaber, but I didn’t vote for RIchardson either – too toxic on too many issues for me.

      • Larry George

        Eric, I shared your concerns with Dennis Richardson, but I take the position that ANY “R” is better than a “D”. I haven’t been happy with the past two “R” candidates for president either. But both of them are better than Obama. That’s the Republican party’s biggest problem. We have way too many Republicans who are one issue “R’s”. And if the candidate doesn’t agree with them on that one issue, they stay home. THAT is exactly why the Democrats almost always win.

  • Dan Meek

    The methodology of the study cited in the Washington Post, finding low corruption in Oregon, is backwards. It measures corruption by the number of convictions in each state for corruption-type offenses. That is not a measure of corruption; it is a measure of corruption fighting.

    These sorts of studies (including this one) nearly always find that Oregon is not very corrupt. But Oregon has no limits on campaign contributions, for example. So a corporate contribution of $1 million (or any amount) to any candidate here is legal. The same contribution in most other states would be illegal and would be categorized as a corruption-type offense. This study concludes that the lack of such law makes Oregon less corrupt. I argue it makes Oregon more corrupt.

    Other examples of things that are legal in Oregon but illegal in many other states: Oregon allows candidates and officeholders to use campaign contributions for personal hotel bills, bar tabs, and fun trips to Hawaii to meet other potential contributors. Oregon allows legislators to vote on matters in which they have personal financial interest. Oregon allows political ads that do not identify who placed them. There can be convictions in other states for doing those things; not in Oregon.

    The study makes no sense. It is like saying that, if murder was legal in Michigan, then Detroit would be the safest city in America. After all, there would be zero convictions for murder there, if murder were legal.

    The Center for Public Integrity/PRI corruption study has a better methodology. See It examined the laws in every state against corruption and each state’s record of enforcing those laws. It used the high number of convictions in New Jersey to rank that state as the top state in fighting corruption. The study cited in the Washington Post ranks New Jersey 31st in anti-corruption (19th highest in corruption).

    The CPI/PRI study has this top 10 of states, in order of cleanliness. The number in parenthesis is the state’s ranking in the study cited in the Washington Post. Note in particular New Jersey, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

    1st New Jersey (31)
    2nd Connecticut (22)
    3rd Washington (2)
    4th California (20)
    5th Nebraska (7)
    6th Mississippi (49)
    7th Iowa (6)
    8th Tennessee (45)
    9th Rhode Island (24)
    10th Kansas (11)

    The study cited in the Washington Post has this top 10 in cleanliness, with the CPI/PRI ranking in parenthesis. Note the differences for Oregon, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, Colorado, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

    Oregon (14)
    Washington (2)
    Minnesota (25)
    New Hampshire (35)
    Utah (36)
    Iowa (7)
    Nebraska (5)
    Colorado (33)
    Vermont (26)
    Wisconsin (24)

    In sum, convictions for corruption-type offenses is not a measure of
    corruption, particularly if the state allows “legal corruption.” The absence of convictions can mean that (1) the state lacks laws against corruption or (2) the state fails to enforce its laws against corruption.

  • nadiasindi

    Don’t froget about the Repulican former A.G. Dave Frohnmayer!

    He was lucky to die, before his scandal comes out in a full swing!!

    John Calhoun · Owner/Partner atInsideValuation: “While I disagreed strongly with his fight against John Kroger over the legal mess at UO dealing with the football coach’s contract and some of the other work he did as an attorney for big corporations…”

    • A.G. Rosenbloomers

      Perhaps, at the Pearly Gates, SP will demand DF to return your condo to you before he can pass through.

      • guest

        There toot nadiasindi: Hillary Lujaw, cornucopia vas is los carbuncle skins gamer will attend ya – with lots of medical mj to further capacitate your genre!