Moore’s Cuba Trip Sparks Gov’t Probe

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

If Michael Moore’s releases thrive on new ways of drawing attention from all quarters, then with “Sicko” everything is going to plan.

The U.S. Treasury is investigating Moore’s trip  to Cuba,  where he took  ailing 9/11 rescue workers for treatment as part of a segment of his upcoming movie.

According to the Associated Press, 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.

On Moore’s website, Meghan O’Hara, producer of “Sicko,” said that the investigation was “politically motivated” by the Bush administration. Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” targeted Bush and his response to the 9/11 attacks.

In her statement, she noted the irony that the 9/11 workers “are not receiving the care they need and deserve.” “President Bush and the Bush Administration should be spending their time trying to help these heroes get health care instead of abusing the legal process to advance a political agenda.”

The investigation will certainly add a new wrinkle to the film’s release, which, like all Moore projects, is bound to be provocative in nature and will inspire caustic reaction from those targeted. The film will debut at Cannes and be released in late June, and political strategist Chris Lehane has been retained to help with the rollout.

“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, a copy of which as obtained by the AP.

Moore’s movie already has come under fire by pharmaceutical companies, which expressed doubts that their views will be heard in a statement released yesterday. And potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson weighed in on his National Review Online blog, writing, “I have no expectation that Moore is going to tell the truth about Cuba or health care. I defend his right to do what he does, but Moore’s talent for clever falsehoods has been too well documented.”

Limbaugh Runs “Magic Negro”: Speaking of need for attention, Rush Limbaugh has been running “Barack the Magic Negro,” to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” on his radio show. From the UK’s The Guardian: “On his show Limbaugh says he is an entertainer and the song is a parody. He justifies it by saying the first linkage of the term “magic negro” to Mr Obama was by a black commentator, David Ehrenstein, in the liberal Los Angeles Times.” Obama’s camp plays down the song, calling it dumb.

The Univision Effect: Univision is backing a citizenship drive for Latinos that could have a big impact on the 2008 election, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company is owned by a consortium led by Haim Saban, a key backer of Hillary Clinton, even though the effort is nonpartisan.

Murdoch Goes Carbon Neutral: Rupert Murdoch announced an effort to make News Corp. carbon neutral by 2010, following up on earlier promises to address global warming. “When all of News Corporation becomes carbon neutral it will have the same impact as turning off the electricity in the city of London for five full days,” Murdoch said.

Rad for Ad: John Edwards unveiled new ads this week, but it is Bill Richardson’s spots that are drawing attention today — for their humor quotient. The spots show the New Mexico governor in a job interview, and are on par in irreverence with spots he ran in his 2006 gubernatorial race.

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