NBC5 Special Report: Political Controversy in Oregon

Medford, Ore. — It’s been a tumultuous time in Oregon politics, with public officials arrested, resigning, and under investigation. But is Oregon the only place where this is happening? And is it happening more often? NBC5 begins an in-depth investigation of the recent allegations, and what it means for you.

Over the last 12 months, some Oregon political leaders and public officials have found themselves in hot water. In February of 2015, Governor John Kitzhaber resigns amid allegations of influence peddling.

3 months later, Oregon’s top federal prosecutor steps down following claims of an inappropriate relationship between her and a subordinate.

In October, Jackson County files an ethics complaint against Commissioner Doug Breidenthal, asking the Oregon Government Ethics Commission to look into possible ethics law violations and misuse of public funds. An investigation that is still ongoing.

In December, Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare is arrested for DUII and pleads no contest. Now he tells NBC5 news he won’t seek re-election.

Just weeks later, Jackson County Community Justice Director Shane Hagey is arrested for possession of meth and resisting arrest, charges he has pleaded not guilty to.

Political Science Instructor Michael Torguson and Southern Oregon University Professor Prakash Chenjeri say Oregon isn’t unique.

“It happens all across the globe,” Prakash Chenjeri says.

“There are scandals in Texas, in California, up in pigs-knuckle Arkansas, they’re all over the place,” Michael Torguson adds.

Just last week, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was accused of choking a woman at a hotel. The politician resigned in 2008 after being accused of soliciting prostitutes.

In Michigan, Representative Todd Courser resigned, and Representative Cindy Gamrat was ousted following a sex scandal between the pair.

And in Virginia, Delegate Joseph Morrissey serves jail time for an inappropriate relationship with a teen staffer who later gave birth to his son.

Torguson says, times have changed.

“There are things people could get away with in the 80’s that would get them hung out to dry today.”

With the 24-hour news cycle, the internet, and the creation of smart phones, Torguson says every person is a reporter, every phone is a camera, so the unblinking eye of the media is ever present.

And Torguson adds that microscope is widening.

Coming up Wednesday, we’ll delve deeper into the history of controversy in Oregon politics, and examine the publics perception of political failures and why we as humans can’t seem to get enough of them.



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