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Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber Resigns Amid Ethics Investigations

By Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced his resignation Friday, ending weeks of speculation about whether he could lead the state with the cloud of at least two investigations into possible ethical breaches hanging over his head.

The resignation, which is effective Wednesday, was sent in a letter submitted to Secretary of State Kate Brown, who is expected to succeed him.

“I am announcing today that I will resign as governor of the state of Oregon,” he wrote in a statement released just after noon PST.

“It is not in my nature to walk away from a job I have undertaken — it is to stand and fight for the cause. For that reason I apologize to all those people who gave of their faith, time, energy and resources to elect me to a fourth term last year and who have supported me over the past three decades. I promise you that I will continue to pursue our shared goals and our common cause in another venue.”

Kitzhaber had met with his staff in the late morning to tell them his plans.

The embattled governor faces allegations that his fiancee used their relationship to win contracts for her consulting business and failed to report income on her taxes. The state’s two top legislative leaders and the state treasurer — all Democrats, as is the 67-year-old governor — had called on Kitzhaber on Thursday to resign.

Although questions about first lady Cylvia Hayes, a 47-year-old clean energy consultant, have dogged the couple for months, the end of Kitzhaber’s 36-year career in public service came swiftly and agonizingly.

On Monday, state Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum announced in a three-sentence letter to Kitzhaber that she had begun a criminal investigation into the troubled first couple. The state Ethics Commission was already investigating whether Hayes had falsified tax forms and been paid consulting fees to influence her future husband and just what Kitzhaber’s involvement had been.

The next day, Kitzhaber sat down with Peter Courtney, president of the state Senate and a longtime friend and colleague, and said he planned to step down, ending his historic fourth term after just a month.

He also called Brown, who was in Washington, D.C., for a conference, and summoned her back to Oregon for an emergency, private meeting.

On Wednesday, Brown hopped on a plane. But when she was escorted into the governor’s office, Kitzhaber asked her why she was there. He later announced, emphatically and for the third time in less than two weeks, that he had no plans to resign.

Thursday came the political bombshells. Courtney and Tina Kotek, speaker of the state House of Representatives, had met late into the evening Wednesday and finally decided that they had no choice but to demand Kitzhaber’s resignation.

This story has been updated.

Kitzhaber’s full statement announcing his resignation can be read here.

Photo: OregonDOT via Flickr

Murdoch Scandal Leads to Resignation of Second Scotland Yard Official

LONDON (AP) — Claims of illegal eavesdropping, bribery and collusion hit at the heart of Britain’s police on Monday with the rapid-fire resignations of two of its top officers.

Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday called an emergency session of Parliament on the phone hacking crisis that has spread from slashing billions off of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. media empire to threatening his Cameron’s own leadership.

The crisis triggered upheaval in the upper ranks of Britain’s police, with Monday’s resignation of Assistant Commissioner John Yates — Scotland Yard’s top anti-terrorist officer — following that of police chief Paul Stephenson, over their links to an arrested former executive from Murdoch’s shuttered News of the World tabloid.

The high-profile resignations are making it harder for Cameron to contain the intensifying scandal on the eve of an unwelcome public grilling by lawmakers for Murdoch and his son James.

The government quickly announced an inquiry into police-media relations and corruption.

Home Secretary Theresa May said that people were naturally asking “who polices the police,” and announced an inquiry into “instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships with the media and other parties.”

Also Monday, Britain’s police watchdog said it had received allegations of potential wrongdoing in connection with phone hacking against four senior officers — Stephenson, Yates and two former senior officers. One of the claims is that Yates inappropriately helped get a job for the daughter of former News of the World editor, Neil Wallis.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it was looking into the claims.

Yates said he had done nothing wrong.

“I have acted with complete integrity,” he said. “My conscience is clear.”

Cameron is under heavy pressure after the resignations of Stephenson and Yates, and Sunday’s arrest of Murdoch executive Rebekah Brooks — a friend and neighbor whom he has met at least six times since entering office 14 months ago — on suspicion of hacking into the cell phones of celebrities, politicians and others in the news and bribing police for information.

His critics grew louder in London as the prime minister visited South Africa on a two-day visit to the continent already cut short by the crisis

He trimmed another seven hours from his itinerary — having already jettisoned stops in Rwanda and South Sudan — as his government faces a growing number of questions about its cozy relationship with the Murdoch empire during a scandal that has taken down top police and media figures with breathtaking speed and knocked billions off the value of Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire.

Parliament was to break for the summer on Tuesday after lawmakers grilled Murdoch, his son James and Brooks, in a highly anticipated public airing about the scandal. Cameron, however, said lawmakers should reconvene Wednesday “so I can make a further statement.”

Cameron insisted his Conservative-led government had “taken very decisive action” by setting up a judge-led inquiry into the wrongdoing at the now-defunct Murdoch tabloid News of the World and into the overall relations between British politicians, the media and police.

“We have helped to ensure a large and properly resourced police investigation that can get to the bottom of what happened, and wrongdoing, and we have pretty much demonstrated complete transparency in terms of media contact,” Cameron said.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband, however, said Cameron needed to answer “a whole series of questions” about his relationships with Brooks, James Murdoch and Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor whom Cameron later hired as his communications chief. Coulson resigned from that post in January was arrested earlier this month in the scandal.

“At the moment, he seems unable to provide the leadership the country needs,” Miliband said of Cameron.

Rupert Murdoch, too, faces a major test Tuesday in his bid to tame a scandal that has already destroyed the News of the World, cost the jobs of Brooks and Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton and sunk the media baron’s dream of taking full control of a lucrative satellite broadcaster, British Sky Broadcasting.

At the televised hearing, politicians will seek more details about the scale of criminality at the News of the World. The Murdochs will try to avoid incriminating themselves or doing more harm to their business without misleading Parliament, which is a crime.

The showdown comes as James Murdoch — chairman of BSkyB and chief executive of his father’s European and Asian operations — appears increasingly isolated following the departure of Brooks, a possible candidate for arrest or resignation.

James Murdoch did not directly oversee the News of the World, but he approved payments to some of the paper’s most prominent hacking victims, including 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) to Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor.

James Murdoch said last week that he “did not have a complete picture” when he approved the payouts.

Murdoch is eager to stop the crisis from spreading to the United States, where many of his most lucrative assets — including the Fox TV network, 20th Century Fox film studio, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post — are based.

News Corp. on Monday appointed commercial lawyer Anthony Grabiner to run its Management and Standards Committee, which will deal with the phone hacking scandal. It said the committee will cooperate with all investigations on hacking and alleged police payments, and carry out its own inquiries.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Weiner Resigns

Representative Anthony Weiner (D-Queens, Brooklyn) resigned just after 2pm at the senior center in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn where he began his first run for city council two decades ago, leaving the door open to a future run for office by staying tightly focused on a message of regret, support for middle class families, and his upbringing in the neighborhood as having shaped him.

The overflow crowd was the most extensive gathering of journalists anyone could remember, far rivaling the turnout for former Governor Elliot Spitzer’s resignation in 2008 after it was revealed he was a regular client of prostitutes.

Also on hand were the seniors themselves, many of whom supported Weiner to this day. When asked whether he thought the congressman’s resignation was the right move, one elderly man said, “not really.”

Weiner said there was “no higher honor” than being elected to represent his “neighbors,” and lauded his constituents as “hardworking, patriotic, opinionated, and authentic.”

He weaved a pleasant narrative of his father attending college on the G.I. Bill after World War II and apologized again for his actions and the distraction he had become. When he spoke the word “resign” there was a groan from supporters in attendance, and also obnoxious heckling from a man who asked Weiner explicit questions about his body.

There is a precedent for other elected officials having been caught up in scandals, resigning, and then being reelected by their constituents. Perhaps the most extreme example is that of Preston Brooks, the South Carolina congressman who caned abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner nearly to death on the Senate floor in the 1850s before resigning and then being promptly sent back to the House by his constituents. Weiner does not appear to have broken the law or engaged in any physical misbehavior.

Pressure Increases on Weiner to Step Down

The calls for Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to resign because of his raunchy online chats with a series of women are escalating, especially in light of reports that his wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime top aide to Hillary Clinton, is in the first trimester of pregnancy. Weiner, who was never popular in the Democratic caucus for the same reasons he became a liberal hero during the healthcare fight last spring–his ability to yell loudly and endlessly, on every possible channel–has seen several House colleagues and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine publicly insist that he step down.

It seems like he’s trying to ride out the storm, and stay in office. It’s a strategy that worked for Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) in 2007 when it was revealed that the right-wing social conservative frequented prostitutes. Weiner–a former roommate of Jon Stewart who lives in the media capital of the world–may face more obstacles in keeping a low profile in the media capital of the world. [LAT]