Kitzhaber cant

We are saturated in left-wing media. I think it is literally impossible to imagine a world in which the media were impartial, or fair, or tilted right rather than left. Professor Tim Groseclose nevertheless brings the methodology of quantitative social science to the task in Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind and the results are fascinating.

To clarify her own thinking as she worked on the Obama administration scandal stories she relates in Stonewalled, former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson plays “The Substitution Game.” In the game she asks herself how the matter in issue would be treated if the perpetrator were a Republican rather than a Democrat. There is a reason why Attkisson is a former CBS News reporter.

If a liberal newspaper has called on a liberal Democratic governor to resign his office, something must be happening. Attention must be paid. This is the case in Oregon, where The Oregonian has published the editorial “John Kitzhaber must resign.”

The Oregonian had endorsed Kitzhaber for reelection; the endorsement reflects the paper’s liberalism. The editorial calling for Kitzhaber to step down tells a tale of the Age of Obama, but the tale also has a timeless quality as well. I have omitted the editorial’s embedded links as well as the video that is posted with the editorial. The editors write:

“I’m not going to consider resigning,” said Gov. John Kitzhaber at a disastrous press conference held Friday following revelations about the apparently borderless world of public policy and private gain in which he and fiancée Cylvia Hayes exist. “I was elected by the people of this state to do a job, and I intend to do it.”

No doubt, the governor does intend to do the job Oregonians gave him, which, simply put, is to pursue the interests of his constituents. That intention, however, is no match for an ugly reality of his own making, whose sordid elements keep surfacing with dispiriting regularity, most recently this week thanks to the work of Nick Budnick and Laura Gunderson of The Oregonian/OregonLive. Two people involved in Kitzhaber’s 2010 campaign helped Hayes find paid work with groups interested in Oregon policy, Budnick and Gunderson reported. Both have landed 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. If he wants to serve his constituents he should resign.

To recite every reported instance in which Hayes, ostensibly under Kitzhaber’s watchful eye, has used public resources, including public employee time and her “first lady” title, in pursuit of professional gain would require far more space than we have here and, besides, repeat what most readers already know. Suffice it to say there’s a pattern, and the person who bears the responsibility for allowing it to form and persist is Kitzhaber, who should know better. After all, as he pointed out during Friday’s press conference, he’s been serving in public office on and off since the 1970s.

Consider, instead, what Oregonians have learned during only the last couple of weeks. First, Hayes received a combined $118,000 in 2011 and 2012 through the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center even as she served as an unpaid energy adviser to Kitzhaber. This income is not fully accounted for on tax forms Hayes provided to The Oregonian/OregonLive. Neither has the governor fully accounted for the money in ethics filings.

A big chunk of Hayes’ fellowship money, $75,000, came from the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation, a nonprofit that funds clean-energy initiatives such as the low carbon fuel standard. Implementing a low carbon fuel standard is a priority for both Kitzhaber and Democratic leaders in the Legislature. The session’s first public hearing on a bill to that end happened on Monday.

How did Hayes end up with a fellowship funded by an organization with an interest in clean-energy policy in Oregon? A Kitzhaber campaign adviser, Dan Carol, helped arrange the funding following Kitzhaber’s election in 2010, Budnick and Gunderson reported. Carol subsequently landed a position within the Kitzhaber administration. That position, Willamette Week has reported, pays more than $165,000, making Carol Kitzhaber’s highest-paid aide.

Who knew following the trail of “clean energy” money could make you feel so dirty?

Another campaign adviser, Greg Wolf, helped land Hayes a position with the Rural Development Initiatives. The nonprofit, Budnick and Gunderson reported, wanted Hayes to help raise money for a clean economy project – including tens of thousands for which Kitzhaber’s support was needed. Wolf, like Carol, later secured a position in Kitzhaber’s administration.

Is it any wonder Kitzhaber now finds himself stranded in an ethical swamp? To understand the full extent of his predicament, consider his inability to answer one simple question during his press conference Friday: Is Hayes a member of your household? He answered this question in the affirmative on multiple occasions in ethics filings. But on Friday, following the discovery of apparently unreported fellowship income, he said, “I have no idea whether she is ‘legally’ a member of my household.”

The governor has not yet quibbled about the meaning of “is,” but Friday’s evasions were almost Clintonian.

The questions about Kitzhaber’s judgment and competence ask themselves. Is he so oblivious that he had no idea that campaign advisers were helping his girlfriend line up employment marked by ethical red flags? Is he really so clueless that he had no idea how much money Hayes collected through her fellowship, which would explain his apparently incomplete ethics filings? Or, alternatively, did he know and fail to act? Both possibilities are damning, and it’s difficult to imagine alternatives that are not.

Whether through gross inattention or complicity, Kitzhaber has broken faith with Oregonians. His career in Oregon politics is one of great accomplishment, but his past success does not excuse the mess he has made of the office with which Oregonians entrusted him. He is now less a governor than a source of unending distraction. He can no longer lead Oregon effectively and should resign. His constituents deserve better.

The Oregonian video below edits the governor’s January 30 press conference into 20 minutes of highlights. It’s worth a look. Quotable quote: “The standards I set for myself are actually quite high.”

Aren’t former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife going to prison on federal corruption charges for acts of this nature? I don’t know, but it seems a reasonable question. At 16:35, one of the reporters actually poses the question to Kitzhaber. Kitzhaber himself does not draw any substantive distinction between his case and the McDonnells’. His cant can only go so far.

As I say, it would take someone with the imagination of Ray Bradbury to portray the world that would exist without the double standards of which Democrats are the beneficiaries. For pulling the plug on Kitzhaber, at least, the editors of the Oregonian have earned the respectful attention of public-spirited citizens.

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