Campbell has had
grand plans for Silvies Valley Ranch. For more than a decade, heâs been
building artificial beaver dams and other water diversions to restore
natural habitat and boost hay production. Heâs imported South African
Boer goats, a hardy breed that mows down invasive plants and barbecues
The high-desert ranch
has a 6,000-foot runway, making it the best place in Grant County (pop.
7,283) to land a private plane. Campbell is building a resortâhis plans
call for 575 unitsâand developing a 36-hole, eco-friendly golf course.
But records show, in
his desire to bring economic development to what he calls âFrontier
Oregon,â Campbell has skirted state environmental regulations.
His water diversion
projects blocked passage of endangered redband trout, and at least one
building projectâs septic systems fell afoul of Oregon Department of
Environmental Quality rules.
approach to regulations proved no barrier to a warm friendship with
then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, a politician whose environmental views were a
pillar of his 35-year political career. That career ended with his Feb.
18 resignation amid growing allegations of influence peddling and
conflicts of interest involving him and former first lady Cylvia Hayes.
provide a glimpse of his friendship with Campbell, a big campaign
contributor. The emailsâfrom the accounts that Kitzhaberâs office sought
to delete from state servers Feb. 5âshow how the governor tried to
balance running the state while also running for re-election. Kitzhaber
did not respond to questions for this story.
year, Campbell proposed hosting a âFrontier Oregon Summitâ at his ranch
to promote economic development in Eastern Oregon. The event fell in
the middle of Kitzhaberâs campaign for his fourth and final term. When
Campbell emailed him about his idea, Kitzhaber responded with
âYour invite list is
excellent,â Kitzhaber wrote to Campbell on June 8, 2014. âIf you want me
to co-sign a letter to the list I would be glad to do so.â
environmental staff was far less enthusiastic about the prospect of the
governor headlining an event that would bring dozens of business and
political leaders to Silvies Valley Ranch.
âGovernor: I am going
to be very direct,â Richard Whitman, Kitzhaberâs natural resources
adviser, wrote June 20, 2014. âThere are some serious problems with how
Silvies Ranch has carried out its work.â
Last year, Kitzhaber, a Democrat, generated an unusual
level of support from business and timber interests that historically
His appearance at
Campbellâs Frontier Oregon Summit would highlight his commitment to one
of his top priorities, creating jobs in rural Oregon.
With his ambitious plans for Silvies Valley Ranch, Campbell gave Kitzhaber the opportunity for a perfect campaign event.
Campbell had already
established himself as one of Kitzhaberâs top individual contributors,
giving him $20,000 for his 2010 campaign for governor. Campbellâs name
wasnât on the checks. Instead, he used two of his companies to direct
When the 2011 Oregon
Legislature opened, Campbell sought a controversial bill that benefited
just one party: his Silvies Valley Ranch.
In most cases, ranch
land is zoned so itâs limited largely to agricultural use. But state
Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem) pushed House Bill 3465 to allow Campbell to
develop his massive resort despite land-use rules that would have
Opponents saw the
bill as an end-run around Oregonâs land-use laws. âThis was a one-off
deal that benefits one party,â says Stephen Kafoury, a lobbyist for the
American Planning Association.
Kitzhaber expressed concerns about measures that provide special dealsâand then signed the bill into law anyway.
Kitzhaber another $21,000 in 2012, this time writing checks in his own
name, and followed in May 2014 with $25,500 more. As he did in 2010,
Campbell channeled the 2014 donations through his companies.
says he made no attempt to disguise his donations but simply wrote
checks from company accounts rather than his personal checkbook. âAnyone
can find out who owns any company in Oregon,â he says.
In June 2014, Campbell sent an email to Kitzhaberâs personal account about his plan for a Frontier Oregon Summit.
Campbell wanted the summit to advocate less government red tape, especially for rural businesses.
âState agencies must
adopt a culture of helping to make things happen, instead of allowing
things to happen only if they canât be stopped by a regulation,â
Campbell wrote in a June 8, 2014, memo to Kitzhaber under the heading
âExpected Outcomes from the Summit.â
âLaws must be enacted
to allow ecological enhancement to happen quickly and without costly,
unnecessary permitting requirements.â
Emails show Kitzhaber
asked Campbell to add a name to the list of speakers: first lady Cylvia
Hayes. âCylvia has been working on the poverty issue for the past three
years and might have something valuable to contribute,â Kitzhaber wrote
June 8, 2014.
Campbell revised his agenda but ignored Kitzhaberâs request. Hayes wasnât happy.
âIâd like to actually
make some comments during our day one wrap up session rather than just
being introduced,â she wrote to Kitzhaber on June 19, 2014. âIâd like to
introduce the concept of economic reinvention and give a couple brief
examples of rural communities that are doing it.â
SPECIAL TREATMENT: Campbell wouldnât be able to operate his ranch as a resort if then-Gov. John Kitzhaber had not signed a 2011 bill intended solely to give Silvies Valley Ranch an exemption under land-use rules. Kitzhaber professed his dislike for such bills, and then signed it anyway to help Campbell, a campaign contributor.
Kitzhaber circulated Campbellâs agenda. Whitman,
Kitzhaberâs natural resources adviser, voiced objections. Whitman had
been in close touch with state regulatory agencies, and became concerned
at what he learned about Silvies Valley Ranch.
The message from Whitman was particularly candid compared to other emails Kitzhaber received from his staff.
Ranch has] carried out their work without obtaining, or even applying or
attempting to obtain, federal or state permits,â Whitman wrote to
Kitzhaber on June 20, 2014. âI am told that on the order of 1,000 (yes,
thatâs right, one thousand) small dams/water retention structures have
been constructed without state removal-fill permits. State and federal
agencies report that the work is blocking fish passage (redband), as
well as killing riparian vegetation.â
wanted the stateâs concerns about Campbellâs ranch resolved before the
summit. âHe wasnât comfortable attending if the regulatory matter wasnât
resolved,â Whitman says in an email to WW.
The Department of
State Lands got Campbell to agree to a nine-page consent decree, which
detailed the unpermitted in-water work heâd been doing at Silvies Valley
Ranch for more than a decade.
Campbell tells WW
he hadnât known he needed permits to do the work. He agreed by January
2016 to file a plan to fix any damage to waterways. Instead of facing
civil penalties, Campbell agreed to make a payment of $10,000 to the
Common School Fund.
A Department of State Lands spokeswoman declined to comment on the agreement.
Even as he and the
state were finalizing the consent agreement, Campbell copied Kitzhaber
on emails that illustrated his frustration with regulators, such as the
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. âSeriously, getting rid of
two or three mid level egomaniacs there would increase economic growth
in eastern Oregon by ten percent all by itself when folks realized you
could actually get something approved,â Campbell wrote on July 19, 2014.
Summit proceeded as planned on June 22 and 23, 2014. Eighty
inviteesâincluding eight lawmakers, the heads of the Oregon Business
Council and Oregon Business Association, and the first coupleâdined on
barbecued goat, roasted vegetables and whiskey. A rare thunderstorm
ripped the desert sky, but Campbell had ordered a tent more than large
enough to accommodate his guests.
Kitzhaber and Hayes flew in from the Hillsboro Airport on Campbellâs private plane to kick off the event.
âShe spoke a lot longer than John did,â says one attendee who asked not to be identified. âHe didnât say much at all.â
Emails show Kitzhaber
had to leave the two-day gathering early for a fundraiser in Los
Angeles hosted by Dean Devlin, producer of the television series Leverage, which filmed in Portland from 2008 to 2012.
donât show much follow-up after the Frontier Summit, except for two
messages: He asked a fundraising consultant how much money Campbell had
given his re-election campaign so he could hit up another summit
attendee, New Seasons Market co-founder Chuck Eggert, for the same
amount. Eggert gave $2,500.
Campbell sent Kitzhaber a few messages of support later in 2014, especially as questions about Hayesâ consulting work grew.
In December, Campbell sent Kitzhaber an email (one he tells WW
he now regrets) in which he railed against state natural resources
agencies and the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, which was
beginning an inquiry into Kitzhaber and Hayes.
microscopes to try to find some rule they can over interpret to make any
good deed look bad,â Campbell wrote Dec. 13, 2014. âI hope the ethics
commission got themselves defunded in your budgetâthey are not helping
Oregon be better, but rather taking us back to the Stone Age!â
ONLINE: This story is part of a WW series based on emails that former Gov. John Kitzhaberâs office attempted to delete from state computers. Read more at wweek.com/kitzhaberemails. For more on Scott Campbell, see "Rent a Pup", our November 2012 cover story on the Campbell-founded Hannah: The Pet Society.