Oregon Republicans File Ethics Complaint Against Governor John Kitzhaber And Fiancée

By Courtney Sherwood

PORTLAND, Ore.(Reuters) - Oregon's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Governor John Kitzhaber (D) and his fiancée seeking a probe into alleged conflicts of interest, days after her admission of an illegal marriage disrupted the Democrat's reelection bid.

The party's complaint raised questions about whether the governor's fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, violated state ethics rules by accepting consulting contracts with groups seeking to influence state policy, the party's vice chairman said on Thursday.

"Relaxing ethics rules to accommodate private gain is problematic," Bill Currier said, adding the Republican Party plans to file more detailed complaints soon. "If we don't have a governor with integrity, how can we get anything done?"

Submitted on Wednesday to ethics investigators, the complaint also said governor's office staff had worked with Hayes in 2011 to aid her consulting business.

More recently, it said, Hayes acted as an energy policy adviser to the governor while accepting clients seeking to affect public policy.

Kitzhaber's office has said that although Hayes has appeared at functions as Oregon first lady, she is not a paid state employee and may not be subject to ethics rules applied to public officials.

"The governor believes the ethics commission is the appropriate venue for evaluating questions on conflicts of interest or any other ethical violations, and he welcomes any review," Kitzhaber's office said in a statement responding to the complaint.

Kitzhaber had already asked the ethics commission on Monday to look into any conflict-of-interest issues, although his request for an opinion would not have triggered a full investigation, Republicans say.

Kitzhaber, seeking a fourth term, has been dogged by revelations surrounding his fiancée, who publicly admitted last week that in 1997 she wed an immigrant in a "marriage of convenience," in exchange for $5,000. The pair divorced in 2002.

Kitzhaber's Republican opponent, Dennis Richardson, has said he is not concerned about Hayes' choices before Kitzhaber's current term began in 2011. But since then, "I am concerned that she has used her access for personal gain."

A poll conducted after the revelations began emerging found Kitzhaber maintained a 20-point lead in a state that has not elected a Republican governor since the 1980s. The OPB/Fox 12 poll, released Monday, found 50 percent of respondents would vote for Kitzhaber, while 29 percent picked Richardson.

Voting in Oregon, which is conducted entirely via mail-in ballot, began Wednesday and concludes Nov. 4. (Reporting by Courtney Sherwood; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)



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