In a sign that the walls are truly beginning to close in around him, the Associated Press's national site and the New York Times, both of which have largely ignored the growing ethical scandals surrounding Oregon Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancee Cylvia Hayes for months, have gotten busy during the past 24 hours.
The very belated national attention cannot possibly be helpful to his survival prospects. It should have come months ago, but apparently ensuring that a Democrat would remain in charge of the Beaver State was too important a matter for the national press to consider spreading the results of the outstanding investigative journalism done by Nigel Jaquiss at Willamette Week beyond the state's borders.
The AP has had three stories today. One, since supplanted but still seen here, concerns the embattled governor's apparent plan to resign two days ago until "he changed his mind."
A second provides a timeline of the past four months, starting on October 8, when Jaquiss at Willamette Week reported, in the AP's words, "that the governor's fiancee ... used taxpayer resources to aid her green-energy consulting business."
The third reports on top Democrats in the Beaver State who have called on Kitzhaber to resign.
At the New York Times, Kirk Johnson opening sentence covered up the fact that Kitzhaber may owe his reelection to slow reactions in the press to the growing controversies and Oregon's vote-by-mail system (bolds are mine througout this post):
The allegations swirling around Gov. John Kitzhaber and his live-in fiancée did not seem to bother Oregonians much when they re-elected him last fall to an unprecedented fourth term.
Well, aside from the national press's slow reaction generating no external pressure, that may largely be because Oregon's ridiculous vote-by-mail system enabled voters to submit ballots as long as two to three weeks before Election Day, when many voters would likely have been unaware of many if not most of the couple's political and ethical problems. I wonder how many early voters have since concluded that they want their ballots back, and would have voted for the Governor's Republican opponent if they had they waited until Election Day? If the answer is "more than about 43,000," Kitzhaber would have lost, as he "beat Dennis Richardson, a Republican state representative, by about 85,000 votes out of about 1.5 million cast."
Here's more from the Times's Johnson:
Mr. Kitzhaber, a 67-year-old Democrat in a heavily Democratic state, faces a long list of problems: two petition efforts to recall him, demands for his resignation from various newspapers, and an ethics investigation by the state into the business dealings of his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. Separately, the Oregon attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, said Monday that she was opening a criminal investigation of the couple.
The inquiries stem from contracting work that Ms. Hayes, 47, a clean-energy consultant, performed and was paid for while living with the governor and advising him on clean-energy issues. Those issues have long been a priority of Mr. Kitzhaber’s administration, but now they are bound up in, and perhaps undermined by, questions of whether love and politics got too cozy in the governor’s mansion.
But the deeper trouble is that after 12 years in office, the governor’s enemies and critics — and erstwhile supporters, who think he has simply stayed in office too long — have grown like compound interest over everything from his laid-back management style to the disastrous rollout of the state health insurance website, which never fully worked and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Actually, Kirk, I believe it's correct to say that the Oregon state exchange's web site never worked at all. As comedian John Oliver noted in his uproariously funny video (warning: R-rated language), the site succeeded in signing up "exactly nobody."
As if he wasn't under enough heat already, Willamette Week's Jaquiss reported today that "Gov. John Kitzhaber's Office Sought To Destroy Thousands of His Emails" last week, but that "Records show state bureaucrats refused to carry out the request."
Another factor which seems certain to lead to the Governor's resignation if nothing else does is the fact there is a recall effort underway. If that effort were to succeed, there would be another election. If Kitzhaber resigns, Oregon Democrats won't have to worry about that, and Secretary of State Kate Brown, whose politics I am told is significantly to the left of Kitzhaber, will be in charge for the next three-plus years — a succession largely enabled by an incumbent-protecting voting regime and a left-protecting press.
Rest assured that if a Republican governor had even a small fraction of Kitzhaber's problems, it would have become saturation national news months ago.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.