At his Friday press conference, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said his fiancee Cylvia Hayes will have no policy role during the remainder of his fourth term. Kitzhaber was forced into that declaration by news reports generated by Hillary Borrud in the Salem bureau of the EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.
While it was useful to have the governor clarify where Hayes stands in the Kitzhaber administration, the question remains: Exactly what policies did she influence during his third term — and who exactly was she working for? The Register-Guard of Eugene has asked the “question of how many shoes were still waiting to drop.”
Especially when it comes to environmental policies, which were Hayes’ “passion,” it’s hard to look at any decision or position and not wonder who was making the wheels turn, and which wheels were getting greased. Coal exports in our corner of the state, gillnet fishing at the mouth of the Columbia, low-carbon fuel standards — the stink of ethics violations are all over them now.
And that’s exactly what it is. People are quick to judge actions by their outcome, and that’s why the outrage over the First Lady’s shady employment history has been muted. Those who are pleased with the enviro-friendly direction this administration has taken us have sort of shrugged off the $118,000 in untaxed income Hayes took from the Clean Economy Development Center in 2011 and 2012.
And it’s true, if the governor had never met Hayes he may have made the exact same decisions. But the failure of the administration to take these violations seriously is the big problem. They point, again, to a lack of interest in serving Oregon.
The essence of Gov. Kitzhaber’s Cylvia Hayes problem was described succinctly by Brent Walth, Gov. Tom McCall’s biographer and managing editor of Willamette Week, during a talk last November to Columbia Forum in Astoria. Said Walth: “I didn’t think we’d ever see, in my life, the office put up for sale, but that’s exactly what we’ve seen.”
The tragedy of John Kitzhaber stems from a mistake as old as Shakespeare. Kitzhaber has stayed too long. All politicians and celebrities nurture their myths. The reason that John Kitzhaber is having such a hard time reckoning with the damage that Cylvia Hayes has done him is that the John Kitzhaber of myth (the first and second term Kitzhaber) was never this foolish.