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Wheels of justice grind

jorgensen

It was just about impossible to escape the news Monday that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted for the e-mail scandal that has hung over her campaign for months.

Conservative activists took to social media platforms like Facebook in mass to express their dismay at the FBI’s announcement. Missing from my particular news feed was any sort of celebration from Hillary supporters. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening; it just isn’t in any of my social circles, apparently.

In the political world, people tend to release favorable information to the public on Monday mornings so it can dominate the news cycle all week long. That was the Clinton campaign’s strategy a few weeks back, when they decided that the contested Democratic primary race with Bernie Sanders was over and no longer worthy of any discussion. Perception is reality in politics, and they wanted to come out of an otherwise sleepy weekend with the public convinced that Clinton’s nomination was a done deal. Near as I can tell, that strategy succeeded. Whether Sanders and his supporters feel the same way, I’m not sure.

These latest developments came shortly after former President Bill Clinton surreptitiously ran into Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona, presumably to talk about grandchildren. Never mind that Lynch was a Clinton appointee, as the former president elevated her to the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999. Or the fact that we, the people, weren’t supposed to know that such a meeting ever took place. I would chalk it up to coincidence, but I’ve long since learned that there is no such thing when it comes to politics, especially at the higher, winner-take-all level that the Clintons have successfully inhabited for decades.

July also appears to be going well for former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, as the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision vacating his conviction on 11 counts of bribery-related charges. That conviction carried a two-year prison sentence. McDonnell may not be completely off the hook, though, as his case was returned to lower courts and he may still face a second trial.

The news of McDonnell’s courtroom triumph may have been unsettling to some of my fellow Oregonians, as his case was held up as the closest parallel we had to that of our former governor John Kitzhaber. It has long been speculated by Republican activists, operatives and even elected officials that the FBI’s nearly two-year-old investigation into Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, may not actually result in any criminal charges being filed. Once again, perception is reality, and seeing Clinton and McDonnell emerged unscathed from the same judicial gauntlet that has given the U.S. the world’s largest prison population is hardly encouraging for those of us who want to believe in the system.

Kitzhaber’s quest to create a perception of innocence has met with a couple of recent setbacks. It was revealed in late June that subpoenas have been issued to officials at the state Department of Energy regarding the controversial Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) debacle that was at the center of his administration’s scandals. Those officials will likely be called to testify around the middle of the month.

Also publicly disclosed around the same time was the tidbit that the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office has contracted with an outside firm to audit the BETC program, which should be concluding in the next few weeks. Documents from an internal review conducted by the Department of Administrative Services into the department’s tax credit programs have also been released, and helped form the line of questioning from lawmakers during the Department of Energy Oversight Committee’s last meeting. So far, that body has heard presentations about every one of the department’s various divisions and why we couldn’t possibly live without them.

All that aside, Kitzhaber is facing a completely different challenge, and it’s on a much deeper level. News reports Monday morning stated that his 18-year-old son, Logan, was involved in a car crash near Lincoln City on the Fourth of July. This was a matter of weeks after the young man graduated from high school. Initial press articles characterized his condition as “critical,” and stated that he was taken by air ambulance to OHSU Hospital, but has since been released to recover at home with his family.

Back when Kitzhaber’s e-mails were released last year, I was curious enough to look through them, seeking clues as to the downfall of the man who had served as governor for most of the 22 years I’ve lived in the state. Most of it was pretty mundane, and centered on his thoughts involving health care and education policy.

But there were some gems hidden among all the back-and-fourth between Kitzhaber and his top aides. Among them was that he is a loving father who cares deeply about his young son. Any time Logan was mentioned in that correspondence, Kitzhaber made clear that his son’s health and well-being was more important to him than any of the political power he had accumulated over the years. As a father, I could relate, and almost felt bad for Kitzhaber when looking at the purely human aspects of what he must have been going through at the time.

A well-established cliché states that the wheels of justice turn slowly. I’m sure it’s been agonizing for Hillary and former governors McDonnell and Kitzhaber to be in the public spotlight amid criminal investigations into alleged wrongdoing. Clinton and McDonnell can probably breathe a little easier than they could last month. Kitzhaber, however, still remains in limbo, near as I can tell. For the time being, he has much better things to worry about, and could probably use a similar bit of good news right about now to offset this more recent tragedy.

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