Yes, Virginia, There is a Scandal

Robert F. and Maureen McDonnell

Not so in other states. Last year, then-Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell were convicted by a federal jury of selling the influence of the governor's office.

The two cases have similarities but also key differences.

Kitzhaber and Hayes have not been charged by any law enforcement agency, although the FBI has opened an investigation. And the Oregon Government Ethics Commission is only beginning to look at allegations against the governor and his fiancee.

The McDonnells used their positions to pad an ostentatious lifestyle. Hayes, meanwhile, claims the consulting work she did on economic and environmental issues reflect her values as a longtime advocate for progressive causes.

But the underlying allegations here—that the governor's office was put up for sale—run parallel to what happened 2,400 miles away in Richmond, Va.

What happened?

Virginia: Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, did favors for Jonnie R. Williams, CEO of a dietary supplement company, including setting up meetings between Williams and state officials. The governor and first lady Maureen McDonnell both promoted a supplement Williams' company was selling.

Oregon: First lady Cylvia Hayes leveraged her position in Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber's office into consulting contracts, used a state employee to help run her private business, traveled on taxpayer money while conducting private business, and apparently failed to report $88,000 on her federal tax return.

What agenda is getting pushed?

Virginia: The supplement, derived from tobacco, supposedly has "anti-inflammatory" properties.

Oregon: Sustainability, including the requirement that alternative fuels be included in gas sold in Oregon, thus helping the environment.

What did they get?

Virginia: $177,000 in loans and gifts, including an inscribed $6,500 Rolex; a $120,000 loan; a $2,000 shopping spree in New York City for Maureen McDonnell at Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton and Bergdorf Goodman; and use of Williams' vacation home, his Ferrari, and a boat rental.

Oregon: $203,000 paid to Hayes in consulting fees from organizations seeking policy changes from Kitzhaber's administration. Hayes' work involved giving a few speeches and holding meetings, but it's not clear what else she did to earn the money.

What's wrong with that?

Virginia: According to the federal indictment, the McDonnells broke federal law by selling the influence of the governor's office.

Oregon: State ethics laws prohibit using a public position for personal gain. It's also a crime—official misconduct, a misdemeanor—to use public office for personal benefit.

How did they get caught?

Virginia: In 2012, the Virginia executive mansion chef was accused of stealing food for his catering business. To avoid prosecution, he ratted out the governor, telling the FBI that Williams had picked up the $15,000 wedding catering tab for McDonnell's daughter.

Oregon: News reports—mostly from WW, and recently by Hillary Borrud of EO Media Group/Pamplin Media Group's capital bureau.

Memorable first lady move

Virginia: Dissatisfied with a mansion maid, Maureen McDonnell once stripped down to her underwear to scrub a bathroom floor, and ordered two staff members to join her.

Oregon: Hayes directed state employees to change her cat's litter box and chauffeur her dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback named Tessa.

The governor's state of denial

Virginia: McDonnell said he thought the Rolex was a Christmas gift from his wife.

Oregon: Kitzhaber claims his 2013 trip with Hayes to a conference in Bhutan did not constitute the use of his office to aid her consulting business. (A $25,000 contract for Hayes soon followed.)

What happens next?

Virginia: The McDonnells head to federal prison after their convictions in September. Robert McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison. His wife has not been sentenced but faces up to 6½ years.

Oregon: The state ethics commission could levy civil penalties, but the same FBI office that investigated the McDonnells is also looking into Hayes' and Kitzhaber's actions.

SOURCES: U.S. District Court, The Washington Post

Additional stories on Gov. Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes:

Jan 30, 2015: Gov. Kitzhaber holds a press conference saying Cylvia Hayes will have no further role in his administration.

Jan. 27, 2015: Hillary Borrud of EO Media Group/Pamplin Media Group revealed Hayes had been paid $118,000 in consulting fees in 2011 and 2012 while working in the governor’s office. WW reported Jan. 28 that this information suggested that Hayes did not report all of her income on her 2012 income tax forms.

Jan. 9, 2015: WW reports the FBI is investigating Cylvia Hayes.

Oct. 8, 2014: First Lady, Inc., WW's cover story on Cylvia Hayes' questionable public and private business dealings. 

Jan. 8, 2014: Cylvia Hayes is cited for using a State Police pass to park her personal car.

WWeek 2015

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