FBI agents and two Justice Department lawyers are trying to determine if about $15,000 in missing federal funds was used in the late senator Hubert H. Humphrey's (D-Minn.) 1972 presidential campaign, according to the Minneapolis Star.
The money went through the Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission. Investigators are checking whether the funds were used to pay Humphrey workers in the 1972 Nebraska primary.
Central figures in the investigation, the Star reported, are Michael Pintar, a former commission official in Minnesota, and Tom Kelm, the chief aide to former Democratic governor (and later senator) Wendell Anderson. Both worked in the financially strapped Nebraska effort, and at the time Pintar's commission salary was paid with federal funds.
Neither Pintar nor the FBI would comment on the investigation, but the newspaper quoted Kelm as saying, "They're off on some hare-brained idea . . . That's just ridiculous. There's just nothing there."
Other sources accused the FBI of political harassment to justify a 21-month investigation into the mysterious misuse of commission funds by finding grounds to charge political figures.
William R. McGrann, a Minneapolis lawyer and director of the Humphrey Nebraska effort in 1972, told the paper, "I don't believe there was one penny of funny money in that campaign. I just think that the FBI and the Justice Department have spent so much time and so much money on this thing that they're determined to get some indictments to justify spending $1 million on it."
The Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission was created a dozen years ago as a joint federal-state agency to provide economic development money for northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
The governors of the three states, together with a federal co-chariman, comprise the governing board.
The Justice Department has been investigating the commission since October 1977 for possible misuse of more than $1 million in federal grants that could not be accounted for in federal audits. According to the Star, the department has accounted for all but about $15,000 of the $1 million funneled through Donald Boyd, who was convicted in November of taking kickbacks from commission funds in connection with contracts he won to aid small businesses in Minnesota.
The Star said that for several months the FBI has been interviewing dozens of 1972 Humphrey campaign workers and sifting through 310 boxes of documents given by Anderson to the Minnesota Historical Society.
The investigation of the alleged mishandling of $1 million of commission funds in Minnesota was an important factor in Anderson's defeat by Republican Rudy Boschwitz last November. Another factor was Anderson's self-appointment, in effect, to the Senate from the governor's office to fill the seat vacated by Vice President Modale.