Thursday, February 9, 2012

DCCC: House Ethics investigates Florida's Vern Buchanan's criminal activities

Yesterday, Congressman Vern Buchanan’s (FL-13) ethical woes continued to deepen as the House Ethics Committee announced that they will officially continue investigating Nation Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) Finance Vice-Chairman Vern Buchanan.

According to documents released yesterday, the Office of Congressional Ethics found there is “substantial reason to believe” that Buchanan violated federal law by failing to disclose income from his businesses.

Last month, the FEC said that Buchanan “more likely than not” violated federal election law for an “extensive and ongoing” campaign finance scheme to reimburse employees who contributed to his campaign. 

Buchanan is facing an additional criminal investigation by the Department of Justice for orchestrating this scheme.

“Almost each week, there’s a new revelation about Vern Buchanan’s potential criminal activities” said Stephanie Formas of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She added: 

First, the Federal Election Commission said that Buchanan ‘more likely than not’ violated federal law, and now the Office of Congressional Ethics unanimously finds that there is ‘substantial reason to believe’ that Buchanan violated federal law. Florida voters can only wonder which law he will break next.

House Ethics Committee Continuing Their Investigation of Buchanan. “The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) violated federal law and House rules by failing in his financial disclosures to report his positions in 17 entities. 

The new round of allegations could be politically troublesome for Buchanan, the finance vice-chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who has been dogged in the past by unrelated allegations of campaign finance violations.” [The Hill, 2/6/12]

the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) Voted Unanimously to Recommend Buchanan Cases to House Ethics. In October 2011, the Board of OCE unanimously voted to recommend the case to the Committee on Ethics. [Office of Congressional Ethics Review No. 11-9366 Page 1, 10/28/11]

Buchanan Failed to Disclosure a Total of 17 Reportable Positions. “Financial disclosure statements that Representative Buchanan filed form 2008 to 2011 (covering calendar years 2007-2010) do not include the positions that he held with these companies. 

In total, Representative Buchanan failed to disclosure a total of seventeen reportable positions.” [Office of Congressional Ethics Review No. 11-9366 Page 3, 10/28/11]

OCE Found that There Was Substantial Reason to Believe That Buchanan Violated Law. The Office on Congressional Ethics “board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that Representatives Buchanan violated House Rule 26 and the Ethics in Government Act when he failed to report on his financial disclosure statements for calendar years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; 
  1. reportable positions he held with certain companies and organizations
  2.  unearned income he received from certain companies.” [Office of Congressional Ethics Review No. 11-9366 Page 3, 10/28/11]
Vern Buchanan is Under Investigation by the Department of Justice. “The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating complaints that U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan broke campaign finance laws — the same allegations for which the Federal Elections Commission has already cleared the congressman after a two-year investigation.” [Bradenton Herald, 10/18/11]

FEC Said that Buchanan “More Likely Than Not” Violated Federal Election Laws. The Federal Election’s Commission’s “investigation went back to 2005, when Buchanan began his first campaign for the 13th Congressional District. Former employees for some of Buchanan’s car dealerships alleged they were pressured to donate to Buchanan’s campaign and were later reimbursed. 

Pressuring employees to give donations and reimbursing them are both against federal election laws […] According to the FEC general counsel’s final report, the evidence in the case ‘comes close to supporting a finding that it is more likely than not’ that Buchanan had violated federal election laws.” [Sarasota Tribune Herald, 1/20/12]

FEC says Rep. Buchanan’s Former Hyundai Firm Engaged in An “Extensive and Ongoing Scheme.” “The Federal Election Commission is asking a federal court to impose a $67,900 fine on a company formerly co-owned by Rep. Vern Buchanan that it says engaged in an ‘extensive and ongoing scheme’ to reimburse employees who made contributions to the Sarasota Republican’s congressional campaign.” [Bradenton Herald, 5/31/11]

CREW lists Buchanan as one of the most corrupt congressman is Washington: 

Witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and bribery are all in a day’s work for the ethically challenged Rep. Vern Buchanan. 
The Sarasota congressman orchestrated an elaborate scheme that forced his employees to raise extensive campaign funds, ensuring the employees would be later illegally reimbursed with corporate money. 
Doubling down on the criminal behavior, he made a clumsy attempt to bribe a former business partner with almost $3 million in hush money to cover up the conspiracy.  
Rep. Buchanan is a three-term member of Congress, representing Florida’s 13th district.  He was included in CREW’s 2008 and 2009 Most Corrupt Reports for related matters. He won the last tow elections in Sarasota by very thin margins. 

The DCCC should bankroll Buchanan's next opponent. It should be an easy win in view of the ethics and criminal probes of Buchanan. 

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