That case made national headlines, but at the same time, the paper noted that Hayes was potentially falling afoul of state ethics rules. Even though she wasn't an elected official, she keeps a desk in the governor's office, and there were charges that she was using her connections in the state to further her private business as a consultant. In some cases, she advocated for causes in the government that helped her clients, a violation of conflict-of-interest laws.
Despite the scandal, Kitzhaber won reelection by almost six points in heavily Democratic Oregon. Now, however, the business scandal is causing much worse headaches for him. Hayes has been forced to disclose a series of cases where she received consulting fees on clean-energy issues that occurred even as she consulted the governor on the same issues. As The Oregonian explains, that conflicted with Kitzhaber's previous statements about how her work was handled, as well as with federal tax forms.
On January 30, in an effort to stanch the bleeding, Kitzhaber announced that Hayes would not serve in any role for the rest of his four-year term as governor. It didn't end the flap. The Oregonian, calling the press conference "disastrous," called on him to resign. Some of Kitzhaber's fellow Democrats are calling on him to resign; others, while stopping short of that, have conspicuously avoided defending him. He has also called on the attorney general to launch a full factual review, which appears to be unprecedented in state history. Meanwhile, he has pledged to cooperate with an inquiry by the state ethics commission, but apparently worked hard to prevent the inquiry from beginning in the first case.
All of this culminated in reports Wednesday that Kitzhaber was on the verge of resignation, fueled in part by Secretary of State Kate Brown ending a trip to D.C. early to return home. The truth was even stranger, according to Oregonian reporter Laurie Gunderson: Kitzhaber planned to resign, then changed his mind.
How could such a thing happen? After all, with Kitzhaber's reelection in November he notched an unprecedented fourth term as Oregon governor. (He first served two terms between 1995 and 2003, then ran again in 2010 and triumphed.) But that might be part of the problem. Maybe Kitzhaber has just lost his edge, and it's not uncommon for politicians to encounter ethical bumps toward the ends of their careers. Kitzhaber, a doctor by profession, also presided over the catastrophic flop of the state's Affordable Care Act-mandated insurance exchange. After spending millions, the site was unworkable, and Oregon had to resort to joining the federal exchange—which, needless to say, was no paragon of excellence. The New York Times suggests that Oregon has simply succumbed to "Kitzhaber fatigue."
Democrats can also safely abandon Kitzhaber because of the state's succession law. The state has no lieutenant governor, but in case of a vacancy in the governor's office, the secretary of state would take over until the next biennial election, in 2016. Kate Brown, who holds that job, is a Democrat.