Filmmaker Moore probed about Cuba trip
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore is under investigation by the Treasury Department for taking ailing September 11 rescue workers to Cuba for a segment in his upcoming healthcare documentary “Sicko,” the Associated Press has learned.
The movie promises to take the health care industry to task the way Mr. Moore confronted America’s passion for guns in “Bowling for Columbine” and skewered President Bush over his handling of the September 11 terrorist attacks in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) notified Mr. 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 May 8 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.
In February, the filmmaker took about 10 ailing workers from the ground zero rescue effort in Manhattan for treatment in Cuba, said a person working with Mr. Moore on the release of “Sicko.” The person requested anonymity because Mr. Moore’s attorneys had not yet determined how to respond.
Mr. Moore, who scolded Mr. Bush over the Iraq war during the 2003 Oscar telecast, received the letter May 7, the person said. “Sicko” premieres May 19 at the Cannes Film Festival and debuts in U.S. theaters on June 29.
Mr. Moore declined to comment, spokeswoman Lisa Cohen said.
After receiving the letter, Mr. Moore arranged to place a copy of the film in a “safe house” outside the U.S. to protect it from government interference, the person working on the release of the film said.
Treasury officials declined to answer questions about the letter.
“We don’t comment on enforcement actions,” department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said.
The letter notes that Mr. Moore applied Oct. 12 for permission to go to Cuba, “but no determination had been made by OFAC.” The filmmaker sought permission to travel there under a provision for full-time journalists, the letter said.
According to the letter, Mr. Moore was given 20 business days to provide OFAC with information such as the date of travel and point of departure; the reason for the Cuba trip and his itinerary there; and the names and addresses of those who would accompany him, along with their reasons for going.
Potential penalties for violating the embargo were not indicated. In 2003, the New York Yankees paid the government $75,000 to settle a dispute that it conducted business in Cuba in violation of the embargo. No specifics were released about that case.
Mr. Moore’s opponents have accused him of distorting the facts, and his Cuba trip provoked criticism from conservatives including former Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican, who assailed the filmmaker in a blog on National Review Online.