A killer whale sightseeing expedition in Canada; hundreds of expensive car washes; yoga, movies, and brewery tabs; and 4,000 items are redacted from the governor’s official calendar. You paid for it while Oregon Governor Kate Brown feigns transparency.
If public records are any guide, then Oregon Governor Kate Brown is living the good life. Our auditors analyzed some of the small-dollar credit card expenditures within the office of governor that are paid-for by taxpayers.
Here’s some of what we’ve found:
Having fun. Taxpayers covered the costs for Brown’s security officer trips to the movie theater, an afternoon at the aquarium, and pricey yoga classes. It’s important for the governor to stay safe during her downward dog.
Taking an exotic trip. In August 2015, when Brown went to Canada to kayak for five days on a killer whale sightseeing tour, taxpayers paid $1,869 for her "Dignitary Protection Unit (DPU)" state police officer to go along, too. The five-day Robson Bight expedition at Wild Heart Adventures in Nanaimo, British Columbia cost taxpayers $1,003.10.
Additionally, in preparation for the trip, taxpayers footed a $231.40 shopping trip at Andy & Bax, self-described as "Portland’s Oldest and Best Military Surplus, Whitewater Rafting and Outdoor Store since 1945" (view DPU receipt here
). Another $638.01 was spent on 14 transactions during the Canadian getaway (view DPU receipts here
Driving a clean car. Since becoming governor in February 2015, her security detail charged off hundreds of car washes to government-issued credit cards, costing taxpayers $2,400 in total. Many weeks, the car was washed two or three times. The most expensive cleaning cost $80.
It’s pretty demeaning to send a state police officer, or other state official, to wash your car 180 times. It can reasonably be estimated that these hundreds of car washes took up to 100 hours – that’s two and a half full work weeks in official time (33 minutes per trip and wash).
Enjoying a desert vacation.
In May 2016, Brown took a six-day vacation to Palm Springs, California. The governor’s office spent
$2,183, including more than $1,000 for her security guard’s hote l stay and $300 for a rental car. Yes, taxpayers paid for the vacation car rental.
Furthermore, when the vacation was over, taxpayers paid
$600 for Brown and her security officer’s outbound flights to campaign stops in San Francisco, California.
Dining at breweries.
Since assuming the governorship, Brown and her entourage spent more than $1,000 at breweries, including a tab
on New Year’s Eve in 2015. On one occasion, a redacted cardholder dined
at the Prodigal Son Brewery in Pendleton, Oregon, while Brown's official calendar shows she was across the state in Salem and Portland for the entire day. How can this security guard protect the governor from across the state? They can’t – but apparently they can expense their dinner.
All expenses were charged to an office of governor credit card and the charges approved by administration executives. Yet, when we reached out to the governor for comment, spokesperson Bryan Hockaday said
oversight is the responsibility of the Oregon State Police superintendent.
"Requirements for the Dignitary Protection Unit’s activities are set by the OSP Superintendent, not by the Governor’s Office. The Superintendent has direct oversight of the Dignitary Protection Unit, and directs these officers based on OSP’s assessment of Governor Brown’s safety, including the daily threats made against the Governor."
The State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton responded on-the-record:
"When Oregon’s Governor takes an active role in travelling Oregon communities, the Oregon State Police expect our Dignitary Protection Unit expenses to proportionally increase. She has not required any expenses unique to any other Oregon Governor we have served, independent of the staff time to provide adequate protection commensurate with her hours worked away from a secure facility."
It has been choppy waters for Governor Brown – a self-professed reformer – who promised clean government and a new day in Salem.
Recently, we found Brown soliciting
hundreds of state vendors for $518,000 in campaign cash; paying
for her personal law license with a state credit card; admitting to using public funds for personal expenses; redacting
4,000 items from her official calendar; and using state agency employees and resources to log and redact 500 campaign events.
We recently found
Brown’s office designated 52 employees as lobbyists, but disclosed zero dollars in lobbying expenditures. Our oversight forced Brown to amend her filings, disclosing $165,489 in payments to her lobbyists on the Oregon Ethics Commission website.
Over the last decade, the Oregon governor’s mansion has been rocked by numerous scandals. In 2011, a former Oregon governor confessed
to third-degree rape of a 14-year-old girl. In 2015, then-governor John Kitzhaber resigned
during an ethics scandal focused on alleged personal gain from state contracts flowing to his live-in girlfriend’s non-profit organizations.
Now, Governor Brown seems to be having fun at taxpayer expense while hiding her activities from public view. These patterns are troubling. Oregonians should bring the heat, so the governor sees the light.
Here is our complete email correspondence with the office of governor spokesperson: