FBI Agent Asks for SAIF Files

July 19, 2004

The FBI is looking into the financial dealings of Oregon’s state-owned workers’ compensation insurer, a state official confirmed July 16.

An FBI agent visited the Salem office of the state Government Standards and Practices Commission, asking to see the more than 10,000 pages of documents regarding the SAIF Corp., said Patrick Hearn, executive director of the watchdog agency.

“Was the FBI in my office today? The answer is yes,” Hearn said. “What were they doing? Reviewing documents. What documents? Related to the SAIF investigation.”

SAIF has been the focus of a state investigation since April. A complaint filed in December by Sen. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, alleged the insurance company intentionally underreported lobbying expenses it paid to former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

Walker’s complaint alleges SAIF paid former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt and former House Speaker Larry Campbell about $1.4 million since 1998 but reported only $223,000 in lobbying spending.

Contacted by phone late July 16, Walker declined to comment, saying: “I’m sorry. I’m going to have to pass on this one.”

News of the FBI visit was first posted on the Web site of the Willamette Week, an alternative weekly newspaper in Portland. The story states that the FBI is probing the relationship between the former governor and the state-owned insurer.

Michael Mueller, chief legal counsel of the SAIF Corp., said he was surprised to hear about the FBI involvement.

“If they are in fact conducting a criminal investigation that would involve a federal offense, then it would be my assertion that SAIF is not in any way involved in any criminal activity,” Mueller said.

Hearn said he has no way of knowing whether the FBI was looking at the Goldschmidt documents, or others within the shelf of binders dedicated to the SAIF investigation, which in addition to the lobbying expenses has also focused on a SAIF employee’s allegation that he was ordered to destroy records.

“There is much more to our investigation than just Goldschmidt,” Hearn said.

Hearn said he was in a telephone meeting with members of the commission when the agent, whom he refused to name, reviewed the documents.

Beth Anne Steele, spokeswoman for the Portland Bureau of the FBI, said: “I have nothing to say except to say that we do not comment on pending investigations.”

She explained, however, that by definition the FBI is only involved in an investigation if it is a federal matter.

“There are any number of laws that could have been broken. You will have to contact the U.S. Attorneys’ Office if you want to discuss the law,” she said.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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