In 2013, Oregon’s liberal Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) was flying high. He was leading the charge for government-run health care garnering praise and adulation from the media and progressive groups for his push to institute Cover Oregon, the state’s version of Obamacare. Today Kitzhaber and his political cronies await state and federal prosecution for ethics and fraud charges, in part for their role in establishing and then gutting the state’s health care exchange and citizens are facing near 40% rate hikes on their health care plans. Such is the trials and tribulations of government-run health care.
Kitzhaber’s fall from grace is a remarkable study in arrogance and, in the words of Frederich Hayek, a lesson in the “fatal conceit” — the mistaken belief that government can mold the world the way you would like it. Kitzhaber was a national champion for government-run health care. When the federal spigots opened, Oregon was one of the first states to establish their own exchange and web portal. To wrap the project in a tight bow, the state began to run ads that looked like they were planning another Woodstock rather than offering state-mandated health care. But behind the scenes, however, there was nothing but chaos.
When the website failed to work, Kitzhaber dispatched his political team, lead by his consultant who liked to refer to herself as the “Princess of Darkness,” Patricia McCaig, to oversee the project. This appears to be in direct contravention of state law which mandates a separation between political and governmental functions. Cover Oregon became more about covering Kitzhaber’s political rear-end than offering health care. KATU news station discovered that Cover Oregon officials even created a fake website to create to fool the feds who gave the state over $300 million for the project. The political timeline began to take precedence over the tech timeline.
Elections were quickly approaching and rather than listen to web experts who pleaded for more time to allow the site to work, McCaig, just pulled the plug on the project and blamed the contractors. $300 million was flushed down the toilet to advance Kitzhaber’s political career. McCaig then instructed the state’s Attorney General to sue the tech contractors. Orders were given to destroy emails on state servers. Whistleblowers were threatened with jail time. One party rule never looked so bad.
The Congress now wants to get to the bottom of the sordid tale. The House Government Oversight Committee has began an investigation into the whole affair, demanding document preservation. It’s about time. The American taxpayer deserves to know where their money went and why political consultants were allowed to override the decisions of the tech experts that were working on the site.