By Erik Telford | Watchdog Opinion
As is often the case, when a politician’s spouse gets too involved in the day-to-day strategy of a campaign, despite the best of intentions, the result is seldom positive. However, when spouses get too involved in the day-to-day governing done by elected officials, it can create serious ethical and legal issues.
Cylvia Hayes has long served as a “lightning rod” after admitting to accepting money from foreigners and, in exchange, she would marry them in an effort to secure greencards.
The couple’s most recent scandal is far more serious. Hayes reportedly used her romantic relationship with the governor to further the agenda of multiple environmental groups. In 2011 and 2012–while serving as an unpaid energy adviser to the Kitzhaber administration–she was paid $118,000 by the Clean Economy Development Center (CEDC) to lobby for a low-carbon fuel standard. She was also paid by CEDC for a fellowship, yet accounted for none of it on her tax forms or on Kitzhaber’s ethics filings.
The Tom Steyer-connected Energy Foundation, based in San Francisco, paid Hayes $40,000 in 2013 to produce a green energy communications strategy. The Foundation also helped fund a portion of Hayes’ CEDC fellowship. To make matters more nefarious, Dan Carol, the primary advocate helping Hayes get the fellowship, was awarded a full-time job in Kitzhaber’s administration.
“More ugliness may surface, but it should be clear by now to Kitzhaber that his credibility has evaporated to such a degree that he can no longer serve effectively as governor,” notes the liberal editorial board at the Oregonian. “If he wants to serve his constituents, he should resign.”
Last year, when news broke that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, used the Executive Mansion to promote Jonnie Williams’ Star Scientific in exchange for expensive gifts and unreported loans, a media circus ensued. While still up for appeal, the couple was found guilty on 20 combined counts–accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.
Even in spite of Virginia’s loose ethics laws, McDonnell faces jail time for the questionable access he gave that could have unfairly benefitted the executive who lavished him with gifts.
The same principle applies in Oregon. Hayes was paid to promote environmental policies and failed to disclose conflicts of interest, while her partner–Gov. Kitzhaber–implemented them. Hayes clearly had more access than regular citizens, and Kitzhaber acted unethically as he pushed through the radical environmental agenda she lobbied for.
The writing is on the wall for the governor, but in case he’s having trouble reading, it’s also in the editorial pages of the state’s largest newspaper.