Gov. Kitzhaber Resigns Amidst Green Energy Scandal

Published February 15, 2015

As of February 18, John Kitzhaber will no longer be governor of Oregon, having submitted a letter of resignation on Friday 13th.

Despite statements Kitzhaber made late last week defiantly announcing he would not resign and rather continue to do the job the people elected him to do, his resignation surprised few. The pressure from the expanding scandals and ethics and legal investigations ultimately made it too distracting for Kitzhaber to effectively govern, according to Kitzhaber’s resignation letter, “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. As a former presiding officer I fully understand the reasons for which I have been asked to resign.”

Scandal Ends Career

Kitzhaber’s resignation ends a storied career in Oregon politics. In one capacity or another he was a Oregon public official for 37 years and was only recently elected to his historic fourth term as Governor.

The scandal resulting in Kitzhaber’s resignation stemmed from mounting corruption claims surrounding his promotion of green energy policies. In particular high paying jobs were given to Kitzhaber green energy advisors, including his fiancé Cylvia Hayes, with ties to organizations and companies with business before the state.

As reported by the Portland Oregonian, Hayes, served as an unpaid clean energy and economic policy adviser to the governor, while also being a paid consultant to promote green energy companies and organizations. Since, Kitzhaber took office in 2011, Hayes collected more than $213,000 for her work with such firms.

In one case, Hayes received a combined $118,000 in 2011 and 2012 through the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center while advising Gov. Kitzhaber. The income was not fully accounted for on Hayes’ tax forms and the Kitzhaber did not account for the money in ethics filings. The Clean Economy Development Center had its tax exempt status pulled by the IRS for failing to file tax returns in 2014 after Hayes’ fellowship had ended.

Green Advisors get State Jobs

Hayes also recieved $75,000, from the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation, a nonprofit funding clean-energy initiatives such as the low carbon fuel standard Kitzhaber made a legislative priority as governor. Hayes received the fellowship funded with the help of Kitzhaber campaign Dan Carol, who subsequently landed a $165,000position within the Kitzhaber administration, making Carol Kitzhaber’s highest-paid aide.

The Oregonian (February 4) reported, “Another campaign adviser, Greg Wolf, helped land Hayes a position with the Rural Development Initiatives. The nonprofit … wanted Hayes to help raise money for a clean economy project – including tens of thousands for which Kitzhaber’s support was needed. Wolf, like Carol, later secured a position in Kitzhaber’s administration.”

In the end, with even a previously supportive media and other elected Democrats calling on Kitzhaber to step down, he acceded. Despite his resignation, the ethics and criminal investigations into Kitzhaber and his green energy allies will continue.

It is unclear, whether the Governor’s resignation and ongoing scandal disclosures and investigations will affect the green energy laws his administration had already successfully secured or the low-carbon fuel standard Kitzhaber and fellow Democrats have pushed early in 2015.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.