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Latest: Former Oregon Gov. avoids corruption charges

Federal charges against John Kitzhaber have been dropped.


In October 2015, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned, weeks into his fourth term. The popular Democrat and his fiancée and energy policy advisor, Cylvia Hayes, were under investigation for violating ethics and public corruption laws. Hayes, an environmental consultant, allegedly used her position to land contracts on issues on which she advised the governor. Kitzhaber said he was “tried, convicted and sentenced by the media” (“Gov. Kitzhaber’s fall from grace,” HCN, 3/21/15).

Federal prosecutors announced in mid-June that neither will face charges. A 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling has “set the bar so high that it is now nearly impossible to bring federal charges in political corruption cases,” Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson told Oregon Public Broadcasting. That case overturned a former Virginia governor’s influence-peddling conviction, citing lack of proof that he helped a businessman in return for gifts and loans. Oregon’s Ethics Commission will now resume its review of whether Kitzhaber and Hayes used public office for personal gain.