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Oracle sues top campaign aides over Cover Oregon failure

Oracle and Oregon start another round of lawsuits about Cover Oregon, with Oracle alleging that Cover Oregon failed as a campaign re-election distraction.

In the latest skirmish between Oracle and the state of Oregon, Oracle filed a lawsuit accusing former Gov. John Kitzhaber's campaign consultants of allegedly organizing the abandonment of the Cover Oregon website.

In the lawsuit, posted on the Portland Business Journal website, Oracle claims that the "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."

Cover Oregon is an online health exchange for which Oracle was the main technology contractor. When Cover Oregon collapsed, it sparked off dueling lawsuits from Oracle and the state concerning who was at fault for the failure. In November 2014, Oregon halted all work on the Cover Oregon website.

Oracle's latest lawsuit, filed on Feb. 26, also states, "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."

In February, Oracle notified Oregon that it planned to stop supporting Cover Oregon. While Oregon had discontinued using Cover Oregon for most medical care -- switching instead to federal website HealthCare.gov -- it is still using Cover Oregon for Medicaid, which HealthCare.gov doesn't cover. Oregon plans to transition onto a system created by the state of Kentucky, but isn't ready yet. On Feb. 24, Oregon filed a lawsuit to prevent Oracle from discontinuing service to Cover Oregon. On Feb. 25, Marion County Circuit Judge Courtland Geyer ruled that Oracle had to continue to host Cover Oregon for one more year.

Oracle filed its latest lawsuit in Multnomah County Court targeting five of former Gov. Kitzhaber's senior advisors: Kevin Looper, Patricia McCaig, Scott Nelson, Tim Raphael and Mark Wiener. Oracle claims that the advisers allegedly talked Kitzhaber into canceling development on Cover Oregon as a way to divert criticism during his re-election campaign. The lawsuit holds that this is the real reason why Cover Oregon failed in the first place.

The situation becomes even more complicated taking into account Kitzhaber's resignation from governorship on Feb. 18 under allegations of using his political office for personal financial gain. With the first lawsuits still unresolved in the federal and state courts, Oracle shows no inclination to extricate itself from the legal battles. On Feb. 26, Oracle filed a tort claims notice with the Oregon Department of Administrative Services to notify the state that it may sue Kitzhaber and his former chief of staff, Mike Bonetto.

Jessica Sirkin is associate site editor of SearchOracle. Email her at [email protected] and follow us on Twitter: @SearchOracle.

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