Last October, the Willamette Weekly newspaper published an exposé showing how the governor’s fiancé, Cynthia Hayes, was taking money as a private consultant to environment groups and then pushing their policies in her public role as “First Lady” of the state. Most infamously, she ordered state employees to follow a policy she was being paid $25,000 by an advocacy group to promote. Apparently, some of the money also wasn’t reported on tax returns. (link)
OREGON – Long-time Democratic Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Friday announced his resignation amid allegations his fiancee used her relationship with him to enrich herself.
In a lengthy statement released Friday, Kitzhaber said he broke no laws and said his resignation would be effective on Wednesday. “Nonetheless, I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life,” he said.
The decision capped a wild week in which Kitzhaber seemed poised to step down, then changed his mind, but ultimately bowed to calls from legislative leaders that he quit the state’s top job.
The announcement is a stunning fall from grace for the state’s longest-serving chief executive.
Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democrat like Kitzhaber, was expected to assume the office and become the first openly bisexual governor in the country. Unlike most states, Oregon does not have a lieutenant governor, and the state Constitution puts the secretary of state next in line.
Kitzhaber called Brown back to Oregon from a conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this week. People close to Kitzhaber say he asked her to come back after deciding to resign in the wake of the influence-peddling allegations involving his fiancee, a green-energy consultant. But he then changed his mind, saying he wouldn’t step down, which led to a Wednesday meeting between Kitzhaber and Brown that she described as “strange.”
By Thursday, the leaders of the state House and Senate said he had to go. Other top officials in the overwhelmingly Democratic state also said Kitzhaber should resign.
“I finally said, ‘This has got to stop,’” Senate President Peter Courtney said after he met with Kitzhaber. “I don’t know what else to do right now. It seems to be escalating. It seems to be getting worse and worse.” (read more)