Thursday's Oregonian contained the blaring front-page headline: "Saif clears ethics accusation." I had to laugh. "Clears"? What the story actually said was that the state Government Standards and Practices Commission "could not prove" illegal lobbying by Saif via its contract with disgraced former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.
I'm not surprised that the commission "could not prove" it. First of all, the commission is notoriously understaffed -- as I recall, there is something like one director and one investigator, that's it -- and it would be hard for them to dig very deep, even if they wanted to. Second, a major point of the whole Saif scandal is that in key areas, records weren't kept, and in other key areas, by Saif's own admission, records were destroyed. So if you're going to find evidence, you're going to need to do it by intense investigation -- the kind that the ethics commission isn't set up to do. (And the Legislature expressly wants it that way.)
I filed a complaint with that commission once. I and some others accused a physician who held a high state office of a conflict of interest. The commission hemmed and hawed and came up with a nice pat explanation of how there was no conflict. It also included in its report a discussion of our motivation for bringing the complaint, which I thought was interesting. Anyway, it turned out that many months later, it was revealed that the good doctor was a raging alcoholic who was so in denial that he gave up his license to practice rather than go for treatment. (The guy had been driving around the freeways so drunk that other motorists were calling 911.) Nobody at the Standards and Practices Commission had ever asked any questions about that, I'm sure.
Yesterday's news stories included quotations from Gov. Kulongoski and others that, by golly, we're glad that we've got a cleanup specialist in Saif now, and everything's fine. Time to put this unpleasant chapter behind us and get on with our bright future, blah blah blah.
Anyway, back in today's Metro section, The Ocasually got around to confirming that there's now a federal investigation under way into government corruption in Oregon generally. They're not naming any names, but one of the deals the FBI is looking at is Saif and its relationship to Goldschmidt.