Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Friday deflected mounting ethics questions swirling around him and fiancee Cylvia Hayes over newly disclosed, six-figure consulting payments she received from a clean energy group -- while she was advising the governor on similar issues.
The Democratic governor, during a press conference called to address the issue, also pushed back on calls to resign and rejected comparisons between him and former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. McConnell was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison over a pay-to-play scandal.
"I was elected by the people of Oregon," Kitzhaber said.
Kitzhaber nervously answered questions about his public and private lives overlapping during Friday's 20-minute press conference. He also said his fiancée will dial back her duties dramatically and "will have absolutely no policy or political role" in his administration.
Allegations have swirled since October that Hayes used her public roles as Oregon's (to-be) first lady and policy adviser to help her own private consulting work. Hayes also drew headlines shortly before the November election after it emerged she once had a sham, green-card marriage.
Kitzhaber survived the election, but his handling of the consulting work matter has come under fire in recent weeks.
While acknowledging that an ongoing state ethics probe could result in "sanctions" depending on the findings, the governor defended Hayes' work.
"We have tried to draw a delineation between the professional part of her life and her role as first lady," he said.
Kitzhaber, a fourth-term governor, said he wanted to "acknowledge the legitimacy of some of these questions" but then dodged others, telling reporters they would have to ask Hayes -- who is in Europe -- questions about tax discrepancies.
The governor did not respond when the media replied they had repeatedly tried to speak to Hayes but were told they couldn't.
He held the press conference after it emerged that Hayes was paid $118,000 for consulting on clean energy issues over two years.
Hayes, who frequently refers to herself as the first lady of Oregon as well as the governor's clean energy and economic development adviser, founded and served as CEO of the consulting firm 3E Strategies.
In an email to EO Media Group/Pamplin Media Group, Hayes confirmed that the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center also paid her a combined $118,000 during 2011 and 2012. The problem is that the information didn't line up with what Hayes put on her federal tax forms. Adding another layer to the mystery is that her six-figure payment was nowhere to be seen on forms compiled by the governor's office.
Raising further ethics questions, Hayes served during the period in question as an adviser on energy policy -- the governor says she was a "paid volunteer." Though she and the governor did not get engaged until 2014, they were in a relationship at the time.
Critics argue that not only was the economic policy Hayes was pushing misguided but that it was also "driven by chronic misrepresentation from the governor's office on down" and now "carries a depressing familiar stink," the editorial board at The Oregonian wrote.
Critics also want to know what Hayes did to justify such a hefty paycheck. She told EO Media Group reporter Hillary Borrud that her "primary work was to implement communication strategies promoting clean economy development" but when pressed, was unable to break down what that actually meant.
Other questions include why Kitzhaber did not note the income from Hayes' Clean Economy Development Center on his state ethics disclosure form in 2012.
Public records obtained by The Oregonian found only a few details about the center, which functioned largely under the radar of the IRS and the state's attorney general.
When the Clean Economy Development Center was first formed, it applied as a nonprofit organization. The status reportedly was later revoked after the group failed to file their taxes for three years in a row.
Calls by FoxNews.com to the governor's office and the Clean Economy Development Center were not returned.