On Friday, I participated in an online video interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Kissel regarding the green scandal that engulfed Oregon Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber. After the video, I’ve posted my summary of the situation.
Oregon’s Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber announced his resignation on Friday, 13th February, as the result of revelations that Oregon’s “First Lady” Cylvia Hayes has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs from green energy clients and non-profit groups to promote their interests. Kitzhaber will be succeeded by Oregon’s elected Secretary of State, Kate Brown, until a special election is held in November 2016 to fill the last two years of his term.
Hayes has been Kitzhaber’s girlfriend for several years and more recently his fiancée. The governor designated her as Oregon’s official first lady and allowed her to run her clean energy consulting business out of the governor’s mansion and gave her authority to direct state employees on policies related to her clients. Hayes received payments from some of these clients that were not reported by her in state conflict of interest filings. These payments included $118,000 from the Clean Economy Development Center in 2011 and 2012 and a further $85,000 in 2013, including $50,000 from the Energy Foundation.
The Clean Economy Development Center, based in Washington, DC, went out of business after the IRS revoked its tax-exempt status. The Energy Foundation should really be called the Anti-Energy Foundation. Based in San Francisco, it was founded in the early 1990s by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. According to Kellan Howell in a Washington Times story: “Jenny Coyle, communications manager for the Energy Foundation, told the Times that the foundation provided the Clean Economy Development Center $50,000 in 2011 and $25,000 in 2012 for the fellowship program in which Ms. Hayes participated. She was the center’s only fellow.”
Among the Energy Foundation’s recent donors is the TomKat Charitable Trust, which was founded and is controlled by billionaire Democratic donor and climate activist Tom Steyer. Howell reported that TomKat had given $200,000 in 2012 to the Energy Foundation. Steyer’s PAC, NextGen Climate Action, also gave the Oregon Democratic Party $100,000.
Portland’s Oregonian newspaper published an editorial last week that demanded Governor Kitzhaber resign. The editorial commented, “Who knew following the trail of ‘clean energy’ money could make you feel so dirty?” That is ironic, but should not be surprising. Renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar power and ethanol cannot survive without government handouts and mandates. Small payoffs to government officials can yield big profits.
The Oregon Attorney General’s office and the FBI are investigating Kitzhaber and Hayes’s violations of state and federal laws. As I remarked in an online video interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Kissel a couple of hours before Kitzhaber resigned, the investigations should not stop there. The non-profit groups that were making these payoffs should also be investigated for other similar illegal political activities.
Willamette Week, a Portland alternative newspaper that endorsed Kitzhaber for re-election last fall and supports his climate and renewable energy policies, uncovered the scandal and deserves a huge amount of credit. Here is a recent article from the paper that summarizes the whole scandal.