The FBI has opened an investigation into Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes, WW has learned from multiple sources.
The investigation began soon after the newspaper published a story in early October raising questions about the dual role Hayes has played in the office of her fiance, Gov. John Kitzhaber ("First Lady Inc., WW, Oct. 8, 2014).
In that story, WW reported that in 2013, Hayes signed private consulting contracts with three advocacy groups that were seeking to influence state and regional policy. Hayes, 47, signed the contracts, worth $85,000, while also interacting with those groups in her role as first lady and as adviser to the governor.
Oregon law prohibits public officials from using their positions in government for their private benefit. The governor's office has repeatedly considered Hayes, based on her role on behalf of the state, to be a public official.
Hayes also benefited from $35,000 spent by the Oregon Business Council—an advocacy group close to Kitzhaber—to provide her with a spokeswoman. The spokeswoman, hired in 2013, helped publicize Hayes' work on the Oregon Prosperity Initiative, a state program Hayes leads on Kitzhaber's behalf.
The original WW story and subsequent follow-up stories also detailed Hayes' use of public resources, including the governor's mansion, Mahonia Hall; and her use of a state-paid assistant to book her travel and carry out other tasks for Hayes' private consulting business.
WW reported this week Hayes acknowledges conducting private consulting business while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Seattle in August 2013.
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission has received three complaints about Hayes' activities. The commission has not yet announced whether it will pursue those complaints.
It's unclear exactly what aspect of Hayes' conduct attracted the FBI's attention. The FBI often investigates public corruption, such as the influence peddling that last year led to the criminal convictions of the former governor and first lady of Virginia.
The FBI also investigates crimes that cross state lines. Hayes' consulting clients were in Washington, California and New York and she traveled frequently on their behalf.
Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Portland declined to confirm or deny that the FBI is investigating Hayes. "Under federal rules we can't say whether or not we have an investigation into any particular person, business or entity," Steele says.
"We have not been informed of an FBI investigation," Amy Wojcicki, a spokeswoman for Kitzhaber, told WW Friday afternoon.