Following up on a report from February, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) has been in quite a bit of hot water over alleged misdeeds, and last week, the House Ethics Committee offered the conservative Floridian a little good news and a little bad news.
The good news for Buchanan is, the ethics panel has decided to narrow the focus of its investigation. The bad news is, the committee found “substantial reason to believe” Buchanan violated the rules, and the investigation into his alleged reimbursements for campaign donations will continue.
The committee released a 184-page report by the Office of Congressional Ethics that cites e-mails, voice mails and documents alleging that Buchanan offered a former business partner $2.9 million if he signed a false affidavit claiming he knew nothing about plans to reimburse employees of Buchanan’s car dealership. The committee did not say why it does not plan to launch a full-scale investigation.
“There is substantial reason to believe that Representative Buchanan attempted to influence the testimony of a witness,” the report said. It stated that the business partner, Sam Kazran, refused to sign the affidavit because he knew that Buchanan had reimbursed employees.
The revelations could further complicate the political fortunes of Buchanan.
Well, yes, it could. House Republicans tapped Buchanan to lead the party’s national fundraising efforts for 2012, and the ethics committee appears to believe the Florida lawmaker engaged in some pretty serious wrongdoing related to his own fundraising.
Buchanan has already been investigated by the Federal Election Commission, and the FBI and the IRS have also taken an interest in the Republican’s alleged crimes. A Florida grand jury has also heard evidence about accusations surrounding Buchanan.
Specifically, the wealthy congressman, who owns a number of car dealerships throughout Florida, has been accused of using his business to reimburse employees who donated to his campaigns – a practice that, if true, would be a federal offense.
As this relates to the House Ethics Committee, it appears the panel is no longer concerned with evidence that Buchanan failed to disclose numerous financial interests in his House disclosure forms, but the committee is interested in whether he used his businesses to skirt federal campaign finance laws.
As a rule, when a member of Congress has drawn the interest of the FBI, the IRS, the FEC, a federal grand jury, and the House Ethics Committee, the politician in question has a bit of a problem on his hands.
When this politician is tasked with raising money to keep his caucus in the majority, it suggests his party has a problem on its hands, too.
House Republican leaders have said in the recent past that they’ll take a “zero tolerance” approach to ethical lapses from their members, but as best as I can tell, neither House Speaker John Boehner nor House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have taken any steps to punish Buchanan, who maintains his leadership post within the caucus.