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Oregon attorney general launches criminal investigation into bourbon diversion scandal


The Oregon Department of Justice is launching a criminal inquiry into top-level staff at the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission. The move comes days after news that agency leaders were keeping bottles of rare liquor for themselves.

According to an internal OLCC investigation last year, director Steve Marks and five other managers routinely reserved bottles of rare bourbon to purchase for themselves, or for acquaintances. Members of the public, meanwhile, were forced to enter into lotteries for a chance to buy the highly sought whiskeys

News of the practice has spurred outrage. Now, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says her agency will investigate whether it amounted to a crime.

The scope of that inquiry isn’t clear. Violations of Oregon ethics laws typically involve civil penalties, not criminal ones. State statute does include a criminal provision for official misconduct.

The investigation is the latest fallout in the whiskey scandal. Gov. Tina Kotek has called on the commission that oversees the OLCC to fire Marks and other top managers.

Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for KLCC. Before barging onto the radio in 2018, he spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter—much of that time reporting on city government for the Portland Mercury. He’s also had stints covering chicanery in Southwest Missouri, the wilds of Ohio in Ohio, and all things Texas on Capitol Hill.
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