University Gifts to Hatfield Under Justice Dept. Review
The Justice Department is reviewing Sen. Mark O. Hatfield’s acceptance from a university president of $9,300 worth of gifts that he failed to list on Senate financial disclosure forms, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.
FBI agents have examined the Oregon Republican’s disclosure forms and have requested records of gifts to the senator by the University of South Carolina, according to Senate records and a university spokeswoman.
The spokeswoman, Deborah Allen, said that the FBI last week formally requested original copies of university records of the gifts that were made to Hatfield between 1983 and 1987 by James B. Holderman, who was then the university’s president.
The university received a $16.3-million federal grant to build an engineering building that was approved in 1986 by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which Hatfield chaired at the time.
Hatfield, whose son received a $15,000 scholarship to the university, has denied that there was any impropriety in his receipt of the gifts.
The senator also has denied in recent interviews that there was any attempt to influence him, noting that he fought in the committee to slash the grant to $1.7 million.
Hatfield said earlier this week that he expected to be contacted by the FBI, but that he was not concerned because he had done nothing illegal or unethical.
He has said he intends to file amended financial disclosure forms to report the gifts and in the future will only accept gifts from relatives and close friends.
The FBI’s document request is part of an inquiry being supervised by the Justice Department’s public integrity section, according to a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It appeared that the inquiry was at a preliminary stage because the university had not received a grand jury subpoena for the records.
It could not be determined what possible criminal violations the Justice Department might be studying. But filing a false financial disclosure statement is a felony that carries a possible five-year prison term.
Hatfield has acknowledged that two pieces of Steuben glass, a porcelain statue and a John James Audubon print that he received are valued at $9,300.
He said that he did not report the gifts because at the time he did not believe they were worth more than $100 apiece. Senate rules require members to report all gifts valued at more than $100.