Richardson seeks investigation of Hayes contracts

Of the Associated Press

SALEM — With time running out on his bid for Oregon governor, Republican state Rep. Dennis Richardson on Thursday called for the state's top federal prosecutor to investigate whether the consulting work of Gov. John Kitzhaber's fiancee violated the law.

In a 13-page letter to U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, Richardson argued that Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes conspired to defraud Oregon citizens.

Hayes has done paid consulting work for organizations with an interest in influencing state policy. Kitzhaber says she did nothing wrong and has asked a state ethics commission to issue an opinion.

In a conference call with reporters, Richardson said the Oregon Government Ethics Commission cannot be trusted to conduct an independent investigation because its members are appointed by the governor.

“This is about open, transparent, and accountable government,” Richardson said. “No one in Oregon should be above the law.”

Kitzhaber's campaign dismissed Richardson's letter as politically motivated.

“Dennis Richardson is wasting the U.S. Attorneys’ time and taxpayer dollars with an obvious political stunt,” said Amy Wojcicki, a spokeswoman for Kitzhaber. “He is not a serious candidate for governor.”

In a statement, Marshall said she'd received Richardson's letter.

“We have been aware of the allegations related to Ms. Hayes as reported by local press,” Marshall said. “Our assessment of those allegations will be made independent of the political process.”

Richardson's campaign paid two lawyers from the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Clark Hill to draft a memo laying out the case that Kitzhaber and Hayes had violated federal law. The lawyers, who have strong ties to the Republican Party, argue that Kitzhaber and Hayes violated the same federal statute that former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were convicted last month of violating.

Kitzhaber, a Democrat, is favored to win a fourth term. But he's battled repeated revelations about Hayes, who he met in 2002 and asked to marry over the summer. Hayes has acknowledged that she took money to enter a fraudulent marriage in 1997 and, shortly later, was involved in the purchase of property that was to be used to grow marijuana.

Richardson has avoided the issues from her personal life, but he's hammered Kitzhaber with increasing vigor over Hayes’ dual roles advising Kitzhaber on energy and environmental policy while continuing her outside consulting business.

She's done paid advocacy work for an organization promoting gross national happiness, a movement to measure policymaking by the wellbeing of citizens, not just the state's economic output. Kitzhaber has said he wants to include such measures in development on the next state budget.

Hayes also worked for an organization that later tried to influence Kitzhaber to reject applications for a coal export terminal — an action he ultimately took.

Time is running short for Richardson to sway undecided voters and motivate conservatives to cast ballots. The pool of swayable voters dwindles every day as the Nov. 4 deadline approaches.

Through Tuesday, 6 percent of registered voters had returned their ballots in Oregon's mail-only election.

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