Fla. Rep. Eludes Full Ethics Investigation, for Now
WASHINGTON On Wednesday the U.S. House Committee on Ethics released a statement indicating it would not pursue a full-scale investigation of Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-13), however the chairman and ranking member of the committee maintained they will continue to seek additional information pursuant to the alleged violations. Buchanan stands accused of improperly influencing the testimony of a witness and illegally reimbursing campaign contributors.
Buchanan is a wealthy businessman and owner of multiple car dealerships in central and southwest Florida. In 2008, he and former business partner Sam Kazran bitterly parted ways, resulting in Kazran filing suit against Buchanan for $40 million. Kazran later claimed that Buchanan offered to settle that dispute for only $2.9 million, contingent upon Kazran’s signing of a false affidavit to be filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
The affidavit was intended to combat allegations that Buchanan reimbursed some of his campaign contributors through his automobile dealerships. He has been under investigation by the Department of Justice since 2011.
But in a blistering eighteen-age response to the Office of Congressional Ethics, Buchanans lawyers call the OCE report fundamentally flawed and a disgrace, and further described the interpretation of the affidavit in question as bizarre. Buchanans primary defense is that Kazran is not a credible source, as Kazran himself was formally held in contempt by the FEC just three months ago. Buchanans statement also accuses Kazran of attempting to extort money from him by threatening to air the false affidavit claim just days before an election.
In late February of this year, Kazran was indeed sued by the FEC and ordered to pay $5000 for improperly funneling money to Buchanans 2006 and 2008 congressional campaigns.
On January 27 the Office of Congressional Ethics voted unanimously to adopt a report outlining the above allegations. On February 9, the Committee on Ethics received the referral from the OCE and on March 23, the COE extended the review until May 9; whereupon the committee chair, Jo Bonner (R-AL), and the ranking member, Linda Sanchez (D-CA), invoked House Rule 18(a) to continue fact-finding.
Rep. Buchanan, a Republican, lives in Sarasota and assumed former Congresswoman Katherine Harris seat after her failed bid for the U.S. Senate. In 2007, the Bradenton Herald reported that Buchanans auto dealership group made $756 million in 2005, and that Buchanan personally retains an estimated net worth of $100 million.
The Committee on Ethics notes that neither an ethics referral nor an investigation indicates a violation has occurred or reflects any judgment on behalf of the Committee.
A request for comment was submitted to both Rep. Buchanans district and Washington D.C. offices, however a response was not received in time for this report.