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Monday, February 16, 2015

In Oregon Gov. and green fiancee scandal, Feds seek all documents related to 'ocean acidification, low carbon fuel standards, “new measures of progress” and the Global Wellbeing and Gross National Happiness Lab in Bhutan'-NY Times

Oregon Gov.'s green fiancee was trained  by Al Gore.

2/15/15, "Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon and His Fiancée Walked Tangled Path to Exit," NY Times, Kirk Johnson, Michael Paulson, 2/16 print ed.

"Cylvia Hayes was a long-shot state legislative candidate — armed with a passion for renewable energy and a boundless well of enthusiasm — when she first met one of the state’s best-known Democrats, Gov. John Kitzhaber.

She lost her race, but they clicked.

Their relationship, from its beginning in 2002, was based, friends said, on a shared passion for a low-carbon energy future. Mr. Kitzhaber, who, at 55, was preparing to leave the statehouse after two terms as governor, prevailed on a state senator to hold a fund-raiser for Ms. Hayes. Ms. Hayes was 20 years younger, ambitious and determined; after her loss, she sought out Mr. Kitzhaber’s advice about whether to run again in 2003 (she did not), and soon they were a couple.

The road they traveled together, mixing public and private lives, coursed through a treacherous and ill-defined ethical landscape as she built an environmental consulting business and he, after several years out of office, ran again for governor. On Friday, Mr. Kitzhaber announced his resignation, just 32 days after being sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term. He is facing a blizzard of inquiries into whether Ms. Hayes — who functions as the state’s unpaid first lady and has, since last summer, been his fiancée — benefited financially from her personal relationship with the governor, and whether she properly disclosed, to the tax authorities and others, all the consulting fees she had been paid.

Federal prosecutors have begun a sweeping investigation, subpoenaing six years of emails, employment records, visitor logs, credit card statements, tax returns and anything related to contracts awarded to Ms. Hayes or her company. Also included, in a “Portlandia” touch, are any notes about ocean acidification, low carbon fuel standards, “new measures of progress” and the Global Wellbeing and Gross National Happiness Lab in Bhutan, which Mr. Kitzhaber and Ms. Hayes visited in 2013.

The state attorney general has started a criminal investigation into conduct by Mr. Kitzhaber and Ms. Hayes, and has ordered Ms. Hayes to release four years’ worth of email to the newspaper The Oregonian, to comply with a records request by the paper. Several complaints submitted to the state ethics commission are delayed, pending resolution of the criminal inquiries.

There are tawdrier elements to the scandal, too: Last year, at a teary news conference, Ms. Hayes confirmed a report by the newspaper Willamette Week that in 1997, when she was a student at The Evergreen State College, she had accepted $5,000 to marry an Ethiopian immigrant so he could retain residency and pursue a college education in the United States. “This was a difficult and unstable period in my life,” she said. “I was associating with the wrong people.”

She also said that during that period when she was desperately poor, her boyfriend planned an illegal marijuana farm where they were living in Washington State. Those admissions do not appear to have significant legal ramifications, and Mr. Kitzhaber sailed to re-election last fall.

Now, however, Oregon residents, investigators and politicians are all asking the same questions: Was the governor blind to conflicts inherent in having a first lady whose work intersected with state policy? Did Ms. Hayes intentionally seek financial gain through her relationship with the governor? Or is the scandal overblown?

“We knew there was a gray area, and we took intentional steps to try to clearly separate her volunteer activities as first lady from her paid professional work,” Mr. Kitzhaber said during a news conference on Jan. 30 that was awkward enough that at one point the intensely private governor compared himself to Marshawn Lynch, the famously press-shy Seattle Seahawks running back.

Mr. Kitzhaber, known more for his policy vision than his charisma, looked and sounded like a man who had lost his way, stiff and stumbling, the mark from a recent skin-cancer surgery on his left cheek making him look older than his years. But he vowed not to resign and, asked about his relationship with Ms. Hayes, said, “I am in love,” but also “I do not believe I have been blinded — I am eyes wide open.”

“The fact that Cylvia and I have some areas of common interest — climate change being one, low carbon fuels being one, measuring outcomes through metrics being another — the fact that we have a convergence of interest does not seem to me to imply that if those issues appear in my administration that influence is necessarily exerted,” he said.

Life and love had been messy and complicated even before Mr. Kitzhaber and Ms. Hayes met. Between them, they had been married five times — his second marriage was just breaking up, and her third marriage to the immigrant was still a secret when they met. She had grown up in hardscrabble dysfunction near Seattle, and was essentially on her own from age 16; she often speaks about her tough childhood, describing time spent in a shack without heat and running water, and a family damaged by mental illness and alcoholism.

They traveled together as early as 2003, and by 2009, when Mr. Kitzhaber decided to run for a third term as governor after several years as a health care advocate, Ms. Hayes was firmly at his side, as both romantic partner and political confidante. Last summer, the couple declared that they were engaged. Ms. Hayes described Mr. Kitzhaber in October as “the person I love and respect above all others.”

In Oregon, renewable energy — electricity production that does not rely on fossil fuels — has been a high priority for years.

Ms. Hayes, who had earned a master of environmental studies degree from The Evergreen State College in 1997 and had become an environmental activist in Bend, a small county seat in central Oregon, was one of those eager to press for environmental change. She created a nonprofit group that she later converted into a for-profit business called 3E Strategies, a consulting firm that promotes sustainable energy.

“Bend was a relatively small community at the time, and Cylvia was a mover and shaker in the sustainability world,” said Matt Shinderman, a senior instructor of natural resources at the Oregon State University Cascades campus. Mr. Shinderman served as chairman of the board of 3E Strategies for a few years. “She was a nice person, very energetic and enthusiastic, and she had personal aspirations to leadership — she wanted to be a change maker.

She became chairwoman of the Renewable Energy Working Group, an advisory group within the State Energy Department. The role raised hackles and headlines even then because Mr. Kitzhaber was in the middle of his 2010 comeback bid, running for governor and she was his girlfriend.

“The sad part is I think she really is connected to these subjects,” said Alan Hickenbottom, the founder and president of Tanner Creek Energy, a commercial solar company in Oregon who served with Ms. Hayes on the Renewable Energy Working Group. “I think in her heart, she probably believed she was doing the right thing.”

She pressed Mr. Kitzhaber on her issues: At one point, uncomfortable riding in gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle, she persuaded him to buy a Prius. And he was clear about her status: Although they were not married, he declared that she would be the first lady, and she had a section on his official website until controversy about her business prompted him to take that down.

“The work that I do on behalf of our environment and trying to make people’s lives better is incredibly important to me,” she told reporters in October. “It is the focal point of my life.”

From the beginning, the couple knew that her work, which included paid consulting for the state on environmental jobs, could pose a challenge. Even as Mr. Kitzhaber’s campaign was getting underway, she said she was aware of the need to “keep all of the ethics issues, real and perceived, above board.”

What materialized from their partnership is at the heart of the various investigations. As Mr. Kitzhaber prepares to leave office on Wednesday, there are more questions than answers about how much influence Ms. Hayes had on state energy policies. Neither Mr. Kitzhaber nor Ms. Hayes responded to requests for comment for this article.

A lawyer for Mr. Kitzhaber, Jim McDermott, said, “I’m disappointed that the governor’s political allies, particularly those who are lawyers, were unwilling to wait for all the facts to come out before prejudging the outcome.” Senior Democrats in the legislature called on the governor to resign last week.

State ethics rules bar public officials from taking any “benefit” from a family member’s business relationships. But the situation is complicated by the fact that the couple are not married.

“There are wheels within wheels,” said Jim Moore, the director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation, which works on programs to connect students and political leaders, and an assistant professor of politics and government at Pacific University near Portland. “A lot of this hinges on the definitions,” he added.

Questions about the ethical dimensions of their relationship were raised in 2009, when a firm she controlled won a State Energy Department contract despite not being the low bidder. Mr. Kitzhaber was out of office but known as an ally of the Democratic administration giving out the contract. Ms. Hayes was not charged with wrongdoing. Then last fall, while Mr. Kitzhaber was running for re-election, Willamette Week ran an article exploring Ms. Hayes’s dual roles as first lady and private consultant, and suggested that she might be violating state ethics rules by promoting energy and economic policies for which she had been paid by outside groups to advocate.
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Mr. Kitzhaber has said her professional work complemented his goals on climate and energy legislation. Ms. Hayes has confirmed to the EO Media Group, which publishes newspapers in Oregon, that while she was advising the governor on energy, her company was paid $118,000 between 2011 and 2012 by two foundations during her fellowship at the Clean Economy Development Center, a nonprofit group that works with public officials and community leaders on energy issues. The Energy Foundation, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco, also hired her in May 2013 with a contract worth up to $40,000, according to the governor’s office.

It is not clear whether Ms. Hayes paid taxes on all of her consulting income; Mr. Kitzhaber has refused to answer questions about her tax returns, and Ms. Hayes has recently refused to answer questions at all.

Some of the companies with which Ms. Hayes was associated say they had not expected her to influence the Kitzhaber administration. The Clean Economy Development Center said on its website, “At no point did Hayes offer to engage CEDC with the governor or his administration.”

Oregon Republicans who oppose Mr. Kitzhaber’s environmental and energy policies have seized the moment. Citing possible improper influence by Ms. Hayes on energy legislation, they are seeking a delay in action on a bill — opposed by some business interests — that would extend an expiring low-carbon fuel standards law.

Just because political corruption is cloaked in a good cause like saving the planet doesn’t make it any less illegal,” said Mike McLane, the House minority leader.

But other people who have worked alongside Ms. Hayes, or with the Kitzhaber administration on energy or climate legislation, said they believed that her influence was subtle and that the couple shared the same views.

“I think that Cylvia was an important voice in the governor’s office to remind him that clean energy and climate were important parts of his agenda,” said Angus Duncan, the chairman of the Oregon Global Warming Commission and president of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a big force in energy policy in the state. “I can’t say that Cylvia had a significant shaping impact on any of the policy or the legislation I was familiar with.”

Some in Oregon believe the whole thing may be much ado about little.

“So far, no one has alleged that Kitzhaber or Hayes has engaged in the scale of public corruption evident in other federal prosecutions,” The Oregonian said in a news article on Sunday, several days after its editorial board called on him to resign. And on Saturday, a columnist at The Statesman Journal in Salem deplored “a media frenzy of O. J. proportions” and noted that Mr. Kitzhaber “had not been charged with any crime or found by anyone in authority to have crossed any ethical breach.”

“In two years’ time he’ll be largely vindicated, and his tenure of over 30 years is going to be regarded positively,” said United States Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and longtime friend of the governor’s. “There’s no doubt in my mind about that.” But Mr. Blumenauer added, “At the end, he lost direction, which is just devastating for him and for Oregon.”

Jonathan Steele, 39, a Salem resident who was walking to the Capitol on Saturday morning, said he thought getting lost in love was no excuse. Judgment matters, said Mr. Steele, who said he had voted for the governor over and over. You are the company you keep,” he said."

"A version of this article appears in print on February 16, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Oregon Governor and Fiancée Walked Tangled Path to Exit."...

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Oregon Gov.'s green fiancee "was trained  by Al Gore:"

2/13/15, "Oregon's Lady MacBeth," Daily Beast, Olivia Nuzzi

"The Oregonian reported that Hayes “was trained by former Vice President Al Gore to lecture on climate change,” but there are no details about what, exactly, that means.
..
Hayes founded a environmental policy consulting firm, 3EStrategies, first as a nonprofit. In 2009 it became a for-profit company."...

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2/13/15, "Oregon’s Kitzhaber resigns amid scandal," Politico, Jonathan Topaz


 


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