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Oracle Demands $23M From Ex-Gov’s Staffers

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - Oracle sued five senior advisers to former Gov. John Kitzhaber, claiming they talked him into scrapping Oregon's $305 million health insurance exchange to divert criticism during Kitzhaber's re-election campaign.

Oracle America sued Kitzhaber staffers Kevin Looper, Patricia McCaig, Scott Nelson, Tim Raphael and Mark Wiener on Feb. 26 in Multnomah County Court.

The state's insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, never got off the ground despite federal funding of $305 million.

News reports detailing Kitzhaber's alleged mismanagement of the website abounded during his 2014 reelection campaign. In response, Oracle claims, Kitzhaber put the project in the hands of the defendants.

Oracle claims the defendants advised the governor to ax development of the website just when it had finished code that would have made it functional.

The software giant claims the defendants blurred the lines between acting on behalf of the public and advising Kitzhaber on his re-election campaign.

"Defendants' interference caused Cover Oregon to 'throw away something that has value' to the citizens of Oregon in order to further their own political objectives of ending public discussion of Oregon's HIX [health exchange] in order to win re-election," Oracle claims.

Oracle's claims echo the scandal that led Kitzhaber to resign on Feb. 18, after accusations that he and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, sold state influence through her consulting company, 3E Strategies.

"Persons holding political office are tasked with acting - and are vested with power and authority to act - in the best interests of their constituents," Oracle says in the lawsuit. "Failure to maintain clear lines between the actions of the candidate and the actions of the elected official creates a conflict of interest and constitutes unethical behavior.

"When defendants, paid campaign workers, tampered with the decision-making of Cover Oregon, they used the power and influence afforded them by their association with Governor Kitzhaber to shape the decision-making of an independent public corporation. These actions were unethical and improper."

Oracle filed notice of tort claim with the Oregon Department of Administrative Services on Thursday, warning that it might sue Kitzhaber and his former chief of staff, Mike Bonetto, on similar claims.

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