DOJ closes investigation into former Gov. Kitzhaber, no charges will be filed

(File photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber insisted he broke no laws, and federal prosecutors backed him up Friday, announcing that no criminal charges will be filed against Kitzhaber or his live-in fiancee Cylvia Hayes.

Kitzhaber surrendered to political pressure in February 2015 and resigned over allegations that Hayes used their relationship to win contracts for her green-energy consulting business and failed to report the income on her taxes.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Portland said in a brief statement that the criminal investigation that began more than two years ago is over and that no federal charges will be sought. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum previously announced the state would not bring charges.

"We're delighted by the news and the fact that the federal government has reached a conclusion that we have held all along — that there was absolutely no criminal conduct," said Janet Hoffman, Kitzhaber's lawyer.

A lawyer for Hayes, Whitney Boise, did not immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment.

A series of newspaper reports beginning 2014 chronicled Hayes' work for organizations with an interest in Oregon public policy. As she was being paid by advocacy groups, she played an active role in Kitzhaber's administration, a potential conflict of interest.

Media outlets dug further, learning that Hayes accepted about $5,000 to illegally marry a man seeking immigration benefits in the 1990s.

Despite the reports, Kitzhaber won re-election in November 2014 to an unprecedented fourth term as Oregon governor.

It turned into an unprecedented short term as the Hayes scandal dominated headlines for weeks. Secretary of State Kate Brown assumed Oregon's highest office after Kitzhaber ended his four-decade political career in inglorious fashion and resigned just over a month into his fourth term.

Brown is still Oregon's governor. Brown spokesmen Bryan Hockaday and Chris Pair did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

Kitzhaber met Hayes before the 2002 election, when he was governor and she was a candidate for the state Legislature. She lost her race, but they later reconnected after Kitzhaber's term ended.

After eight years out of office, Kitzhaber was elected governor again in 2011. Hayes used the term "first lady," and even though the couple never married.

Here's a statement from Kitzhaber released Friday afternoon:

“As you know, over the last two years I have kept a low profile while resolving questions related to the federal investigation that began shortly after I was elected to a fourth term as Oregon's Governor. I'm glad to report the U.S. Attorney has concluded the investigation and found nothing to pursue. As I have said from the beginning, I did not resign because I was guilty of any wrongdoing, but rather because the media frenzy around these questions kept me from being the effective leader I wanted and needed to be. Then there was the real investigation, not by reporters, but by people with subpoena power and the ability to look at everything in context. They decided there was nothing to pursue. So I'm back. I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing for my entire adult life: trying to help Oregon deal with the challenges we face, in a way that moves us beyond the current political division and polarization and brings us back together as a community.”

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