Rep. Dennis Richardson and sheriffs from Josephine and Jackson counties today asked U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall to investigate Gov. John Kitzhaber and his fiancée Cylvia Hayes.
Richardson, the Republican candidate for governor, said the move was not motivated by politics.
“I’m a state representative, I’m a concerned citizen and I will make sure this moves ahead because this is not about the campaign, it’s about free and honest government,” Richardson said. It is unlikely the U.S. Department of Justice will make any decision on the matter before the election, according to one of the lawyers for the Richardson campaign.
Kitzhaber and Hayes are already the subject of two officials complaints to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. State Rep. Vicki Berger and the Oregon Republican Party, asked the commission to investigate whether Hayes used her roles as first lady and policy adviser to the governor for private financial gain. Hayes was a paid consultant to organizations that sought to influence state policy in some of the same subjects on which she advised the governor. Kizhaber also asked the Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion on whether Hayes is a public official subject to state ethics laws.
In a letter to Marshall on Thursday, the lawyers asked the DOJ to investigate whether Kitzhaber and Hayes used their public positions for private financial gain and violated federal law. Lawyers Charlie Spies and James Tyrell III referred to a statute that prosecutors have used to charge corrupt officials for depriving citizens of their rights to honest and fair services.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell were recently convicted under the law, for accepting gifts and loans in exchange for helping a business gain political access.
“Mr. Kitzhaber and Ms. Hayes ostensible criminal activity stems from the First Lady’s dual role as a ‘public official’ and ‘policy adviser’ to Mr. Kitzhaber, and as a private energy and economic consultant who receives compensation from numerous profit and non-profit companies to present their interests before Mr. Kitzhaber’s administration,” the lawyers wrote.
Spies and Tyrell said during a teleconference Thursday that under federal law, officials can be prosecuted for corruption even if the person or entity that sought influence did not obtain the benefits they sought.
Richardson said the U.S. Attorney should open an investigation because the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, which enforces state ethics laws, is appointed by the governor and might not conduct a fair investigation.
“What we really need is an independent investigation,” Richardson said, although he quickly added that he did not intend to imply “that there would be anything (the Ethics Commission) would do that wouldn’t be above board.”
Amy Wojcicki communications director for the Kitzhaber campaign, wrote in an email that “Dennis Richardson is wasting the U.S. Attorneys’ time and taxpayer dollars with an obvious political stunt. He is not a serious candidate for governor.”