Kitzhaber emails illustrate disconnect between environmental rhetoric, friendship with campaign contributor

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber responded enthusiastically to a project that his adviser warned as having “serious problems” with how it “has carried out its work.”

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Emails obtained by  Willamette Week continue to highlight questionable decision making by former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

 WW’s Nigel Jaquiss wrote about an uneasy relationship between Kitzhaber and campaign contributor Scott Campbell, who has been working on developing his Silvies Valley Ranch near John Day.

Campbell skirted environmental regulations while developing the ranch, called “Frontier Oregon.” When Kitzhaber was apprised of a plan to host an event at the ranch, the former governor reacted favorably by praising the invite list, the emails show.

Jaquiss found that decision was not looked upon favorably by Kitzhaber’s environmental staff. An adviser warned the then-governor, “There are some serious problems with how Silvies Ranch has carried out its work.”

The report details several decisions Kitzhaber made that apparently favored Campbell:

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 it’s 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 stopped him. Opponents saw the bill as an end-run around Oregon’s land-use laws. “This was a one-off deal that benefits one party,” says Stephen Kafoury, a lobbyist for the American Planning Association. Kitzhaber expressed concerns about measures that provide special deals—and then signed the bill into law anyway.

The investigative report concludes with an email from Campbell, an email he told Jaquiss he now regrets:

“They take microscopes to try to find some rule they can over interpret to make any good deed look bad,” Campbell wrote Dec. 13, 2014. “I hope the ethics commission got themselves defunded in your budget—they are not helping Oregon be better, but rather taking us back to the Stone Age!”