It is not a political scandal by any means, but the recent news Gov. Kate Brown spent a large chunk of public money to pay one of her former advisers to serve as a political consultant leaves a bitter aftertaste.
The news last week barely broke above the collective consciousness of the state and it certainly gained little traction in portions of the Willamette Valley, a traditional base for the governor.
At its heart the news revolves around a deal brokered in 2020 where the governor hired her former communications director Chris Pair through a no-bid state contract. The deal provides Pair with a salary of $6,500 a month to attend weekly meetings of the Western Governors’ Association regarding enlarging the effort to create infrastructure for electric vehicles. So far, the state has paid Pair $91,000.
Brown also has paid Pair money through one of her political action committees.
When Pair — a longtime member of Brown’s staff — departed in January 2020, Brown made no mention he might be hired back. A month later, the governor’s office asked state officials to prepare the no-bid contract for Pair’s consulting company.
Now, on the face of it, none of this is illegal. In fact, former government officials turning around to work as independent contractors for their former bosses or agencies is commonplace. It just looks bad.
Transparency in government is essential for a democracy to function properly. That means the public has the right to know what its elected leaders are doing and why.
The money paid to Pair so far is, obviously, just a drop in the bucket of the multibillion-dollar budget of the state. But it is the principle that counts in this situation. If the governor was going to hire one of her former staffers and let him or her be paid with public dollars, she should have disclosed it. State government — and especially the governor’s office — isn’t a private company. It’s funded by the public, and the public has a right to know — no matter how low the sum — how the government is using its money.
The governor didn’t break the law, but bankrolling one of her former staffers on the public’s dime doesn’t sit well with us.