By DAVID GERMAIN
AP Movie Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore is under investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department for taking ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers to Cuba for a segment in his upcoming health-care documentary "Sicko," The Associated Press has learned.
The investigation provides another contentious lead-in for a provocative film by Moore, a fierce critic of President Bush. In the past, Moore's adversaries have fanned publicity that helped the filmmaker create a new brand of opinionated blockbuster documentary.
"Sicko" promises to take the health-care industry to task the way Moore confronted America's passion for guns in "Bowling for Columbine" and skewered Bush over his handling of Sept. 11 in "Fahrenheit 9/11."
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control notified Moore in a letter dated May 2 that it was conducting a civil investigation for possible violations of the U.S. trade embargo restricting travel to Cuba. A copy of the letter was obtained Tuesday by the AP.
"This office has no record that a specific license was issued authorizing you to engage in travel-related transactions involving Cuba," Dale Thompson, OFAC chief of general investigations and field operations, wrote in the letter to Moore.
I got one of those letters last summer, after a similar, allegedly illegal trip to Cuba. They'll threaten you with a variety of penalties. They'll have to offer you an appeal of the finding and the penalty before an Administrative Law Judge.
You will want to lose this appeal, if it is ever heard. OFAC, by the way, has no Administrative Law Judges. But, if you get the chance, that's exactly what you want to happen: losing the appeal will push the issue to the next level. And then, just before imposing the forfeiture, they'll send a final statement that it is going to happen. Look out, Mike, the full wrath of the Treasury Department is about to come down on your head....
There will be a notice at the bottom of the last letter, mentioning that you are entitled to appeal the finding and the penalty to the Federal Courts.
Sweet words, those: The Federal Courts.
The very last thing in the world the US Government wants is to have the Embargo and the Travel Ban challenged in the Federal courts.
That's why they've never enforced a finding and forfeiture. (They do, often, threaten/bargain with people who go to Cuba for the sun and the Bonefish, and induce them to pay a reduced fine). These are folks who did not think they would get caught, who do not want the publicity, just want the Treasury to get off their backs.
You apparently made the trip in conscious defiance of an unconstitutional set of laws. And, unless you really jab them in the eye with this little instance of civil disobedience and force their hand, you can be sure that they will just let this go away.
Oh, what the hell, Mike; jab 'em in the eye. As if you needed encouragement.
I'm no lawyer. But, I know that there are platoons of Constitutional lawyers licking their chops in anticipation of a chance to take the case. This law, OFAC and the travel ban are pretty obviously unconstitutional. I would bet that even Scalia and Thomas would have to go along with declaring it forever dead. Treasury and OFAC keep it alive by never letting anyone get to the point at which they have standing to challenge it.
Welcome to the party. (Click to enlarge)