Rival Insurer Gave Far More than it Said to Group Battling SAIF

August 30, 2004

Insurance company Liberty Northwest gave far more money than it had initially said to a nonprofit group battling its rival, the SAIF Corp.

According to tax returns, Liberty Northwest poured more than $700,000 into Oregonians for Sound Economic Policy, the group which has orchestrated many of the most recent embarrassing disclosures about SAIF, The Oregonian newspaper reported in its sunrise editions.

That amount is far more than Liberty officials previously acknowledged. Earlier this year, Liberty officials told The Oregonian that they had donated just $150,000 over four years to the group.

Confronted with tax returns from the nonprofit showing donations of around $785,000 over six years, a senior Liberty company official acknowledged to The Oregonian that the sum was around $700,000 and said the company’s previous statement “resulted from an unintentional oversight.”

Oregonians for Sound Economic Policy generated months of headlines this summer, after they sued SAIF for the insurer’s internal records. Last week, a judge found SAIF in contempt of court for not having turned over all its records.

This summer, Liberty Northwest pounded away at SAIF’s credibility, citing documents turned up by the nonprofit. They then went on to win a spot on the November ballot for a proposal to shut down the state-owned workers’ compensation insurer.

If that happens, Liberty Northwest stands to gain directly from the millions of dollars in displaced business.

Oregonians for Sound Economic Policy was formed seven years ago to examine suggestions that SAIF paid unusually large dividends to favored customers. While the group found no evidence of that, it did unearth a $40,000-a-month consultation fee paid to former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

That disclosure forced SAIF’s president to resign and led to the ballot measure this fall.

The ties between SAIF’s rival and the nonprofit group have long been rumored. But it was only in recent weeks, that officials of both Liberty Northwest officials and the nonprofit for the first time acknowledged the link.

“We initially didn’t want that to be known,” retired lobbyist Fred Van Natta, who once worked for Liberty Northwest and also served on the nonprofit’s board, told The Oregonian.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.