Contractor: Kitzhaber kept Cover Oregon exchange site shuttered for political reasons

There are a few oddities about this claim from Cover Oregon’s prime contractor. Oracle isn’t claiming that the Cover Oregon exchange worked properly out of the gate on October 1. The software giant told a House committee investigating the use of federal funds for the ObamaCare site that they did have it functioning well enough by February 1 to finally enroll individuals into health-insurance plans through the website. The decision to keep it off line came from Governor John Kitzhaber, Oracle alleges, as a political move to help him win re-election (via the Daily Caller):

Oracle went out of their way to accuse Kitzhaber personally for playing politics with the website:

Software vendor Oracle provided information last week to the U.S. House and Energy Committee claiming the website was operational in February, but that the state of Oregon pulled the plug on it for political reasons.

The On Your Side Investigators obtained a copy of the Power Point presentation, which alleges the state deliberately distorted the case for abandoning the Cover Oregon website in favor of transitioning to the federal exchange.

“Cover Oregon executives have stated to Oracle that the application functionality is sufficient to support individual enrollment,” Oracle president Safra Catz wrote in a letter addressed to Cover Oregon interim director Clyde Hamstreet and state CIO Alex Pettit. “However, Cover Oregon has not agreed to give individuals direct access to the application. Thus Cover Oregon, not Oracle, made the decision to keep the exchange closed to individuals even though the functionality has been delivered by Oracle.” …

“Oracle can only conclude that the Governor’s unwillingness to release the website is because doing so doesn’t fit with his re-election strategy of blaming Oracle for his own mistakes,” the presentation reads.

That decision to get personal may have something to do with Kitzhaber’s public direction to the state Attorney General to sue Oracle over the website failure.  There are still plenty of unanswered questions about Cover Oregon’s failures and Kitzhaber’s knowledge of them, too. It’s not clear just who benefits most from lawsuits, or perhaps who benefits least, but both sides are already playing hardball. Discovery should be a blast for observers in this fight.

Here’s the rub with Oracle’s claim, though. What possible reason would Kitzhaber have had to reject a working website?  He and Cover Oregon were getting hammered in the press over Oregon’s complete failure to launch its ObamaCare exchange. Kitzhaber was an ObamaCare advocate, and pledged to deliver a working exchange. If Oracle really had one ready to go, Kitzhaber should have jumped at the change to mitigate the failure with some late success. Kitzhaber still would have had plenty of room for “blaming Oracle for his own mistakes,” plus the modicum of operability would have blunted much of the longer-term political damage.

There’s little doubt that politics played a big role in keeping the Cover Oregon failures from being addressed and made public, and Kitzhaber will have plenty of questions to answer. But this Oracle claim is at least curious, if not implausible.