Kitzhaber and Hayes begin to re-emerge in public
SALEM — Former Gov. John Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, are gradually trying to reclaim a place on the public stage after months in the shadows.
Over the past several weeks, they've launched attacks on the media. Hayes started a blog, cylviahayes.net, where she has posted deeply personal accounts of her struggles and sense of being wronged.
She also announced that her Bend consulting firm, 3E Strategies, is back in business.
The efforts show the first steps by the couple to rehabilitate their reputations and careers in the wake of influence-peddling accusations that forced Kitzhaber from office last February. They remain under federal investigation to determine whether they illegally profited from their public roles.
Hayes has been the most vocal. Last week, she announced in a newsletter that she's reviving 3E Strategies, which specializes in communications for environmental groups and causes.
"I am thrilled to report that things are settling down and I am fully re-engaging my professional new economy work," Hayes wrote. "My hope and intention is that both my professional work and my writing will help generate more kindness in our world."
Her website, registered Aug. 20, features photos of Hayes and Tessa, her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one of her and Kitzhaber on a riverbank. An inspirational image shows a lion's face with the words "My scars tell a story."
"For the past year I have been in the midst of a series of very intense and traumatic experiences," Hayes writes in one post. "I have struggled with: Burning humiliation and shame, the terror of feeling my identity and career shattering, painful realization of how blind I have been to my own ego, and, a deep sense of loss and abandonment."
In another post, Hayes describes feeling abandoned by former friends and colleagues.
"Going through a prolonged, intense, public ordeal would prove to be like running a marathon," Hayes writes. "Some people showed up for me at the starting line. A few would join for stretches in the middle. Very, very few would run the whole course by my side."
Both she and Kitzhaber have also lobbed attacks at the media. Last week, Hayes issued a statement blasting The Oregonian/OregonLive for its coverage of the scandal and for reporting on thousands of emails released over the past several months. The most significant disclosure came in early April, when Gov. Kate Brown's office released 94,000 emails between Hayes and Kitzhaber's staff.
Hayes sued The Oregonian/OregonLive in Marion County Circuit Court to prevent the disclosure of 71,000 more emails sent to people outside the governor's office, some of them concerning public business. In August, a judge ordered Hayes to hand over the emails; the judge will decide which ones will be released under the state's public records law.
In her statement, Hayes said, "I have kept silent on this issue for too long," adding: "I feel it is now past time for me to use my voice to defend myself and try to prevent this publication from taking advantage of my silence."
Hayes, through one of her attorneys, declined an interview request.
"I do not think Ms. Hayes would be interested in talking with the Oregonian right now, given the litigation in Marion County," federal public defender Lisa Hay said in an email. Hay represents the former first lady in the criminal proceedings and is not handling the public records matter.
Kitzhaber's attorney, Janet Hoffman, did not respond to requests for an interview.
Kitzhaber blasted The Oregonian/OregonLive in a statement last month to the Statesman Journal.
"Pitting media outlets against each other is a classic technique," said Jim Moore, a Pacific University political science professor. "They're trying to stoke something commonplace 60 years ago."
Not all think it's a winning tactic.
"Stonewalling is not something I would recommend — and certainly not lashing out," said David Remund, a University of Oregon assistant professor who specializes in crisis communications and image repair. "The number one thing is to try and rebuild bridges the best you can."
Kitzhaber did speak to Steve Duin, a columnist for The Oregonian/OregonLive, under the condition that Duin ask only about water management in Klamath Basin.
Kitzhaber discussed a letter he sent to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this month, urging her to end a congressional stalemate over the Klamath Basin Restoration agreement. Success could help Kitzhaber rebuild his reputation as a political conciliator.
"I feel very deeply about this issue on a number of levels," Kitzhaber told Duin. "We're running out of time. Since I have a history in it, and I know the secretary, I wanted to weigh in and see if there was anything I could do."
A comeback wouldn't be unprecedented. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood followed a sexual harassment scandal that forced him to resign in 1995 with a comfortable career as a lobbyist. Former Portland Mayor Sam Adams found little support for seeking a second term after a sex scandal involving a legislative intern but went on to land jobs leading the City Club of Portland and then at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C.
Kitzhaber, at an event at Mt. Hood Community College in March, told the Gresham Outlook that he'll return in due time.
"Obviously I need to get my name cleared," Kitzhaber said. After that, Kitzhaber said, he plans to plans to "re-engage in the things I've always been passionate about, education, health care."
He added: "I've got runway ahead and gas in the tank."