Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber resigned Friday amid swirling rumors that the First Lady used the influence of his office for profit.
February 14, 2015

Oregon governor John Kitzhaber announced his resignation amidst the allegations that the first lady used his office to profit personally.


Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon announced his resignation Friday amid an ethics scandal involving his fiancee – ending a bizarre few days of uncertainty over his fate.

“I have always had the deepest respect for the remarkable institution that is the Oregon Legislature; and for the office of the Governor,” Kitzhaber said in a statement. “And I cannot in good conscience continue to be the element that undermines it. I have always tried to do the right thing and now the right thing to do is to step aside.”

“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,” the 67-year-old governor added.

Kitzhaber said his resignation becomes effective on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m., at which point he’ll be succeeded by Secretary of State Kate Brown. Both Kitzhaber and Brown are Democrats.

Until this week, it wasn't clear what was driving the call for his resignation. Steve Kornacki's report above walks through the time line for events leading up to Friday's announcement.

It evidently has less to do with what Kitzhaber may or may not have done, and more to do with what Cylvia Hayes, his fianceé may have done.

The scandal that felled Kitzhaber centered on allegations that his fiancee inappropriately used her access to the governor in her work as a clean energy consultant. In recent weeks, it was reported that Hayes was paid $118,000 by a Washington, D.C., clean energy group while advising the governor on energy issues. Another report found that two close associates of Kitzhaber helped create paid jobs for Hayes with clean energy groups that were working to influence energy policy.

The state’s Attorney General said this week she’s opened an investigation into the reports. And the FBI has reportedly also opened a probe of its own.

The Democratic and Republican Governors Associations both released statements Friday afternoon saying Kitzhaber made the right decision to resign, with DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson praising Kate Brown’s “long record of making government more accountable” and RGA Communications Director Jon Thompson slamming the governor’s “plainly unethical conduct” and pointing a finger at Brown and other Oregon Democrats who “stayed silent for months.”

Last fall, Hayes, 49, admitted at a tearful press conference that in 1997 she had been paid $5,000 to marry an 18-year-old Ethiopian immigrant seeking a green card. The two never lived together and divorced in 2002.

While apologizing to his constituents, Kitzhaber also slammed the media for what he described as a rush to judgment.

“I must also say that it is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and no independent verification of the allegations involved,” he said.

Kitzhaber denied breaking any laws or acting dishonestly. But he said he’s stepping down because the “escalating media frenzy” over allegations that his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, had inappropriately benefited from their relationship “has clearly reached the point of no return.”

What a sad ending to what has been a long and distinguished career as governor of Oregon.

The good news is that Kate Brown is a progressive Democrat who is committed to transparency in government and will carry on Oregon's tradition of progressive governance.

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