House Republicans apparently thought they were making a smart move when they tapped Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) to lead the party’s national fundraising efforts for 2012. And to a certain extent, the decision has paid off – contributions to the NRCC have increased since Buchanan took over as finance chairman.
It’s the ongoing allegations of corruption surrounding Buchanan that pose the larger problem.
Federal inquiries surrounding Mr. Buchanan appear to be widening, as investigators examine allegations that his companies improperly reimbursed contributors to his campaigns and claimed improper tax deductions and that he failed to include all his varied financial interests in his Congressional disclosure reports.
The Federal Election Commission has already completed one investigation that produced a settlement this week with a former partner of Mr. Buchanan’s who used their car dealership to reimburse employees for contributing to the congressman’s campaigns, in violation of federal law.
The commission dropped its case against Mr. Buchanan himself over the reimbursements, despite testimony that he took part in the scheme. But agents for the F.B.I. and the Internal Revenue Service recently contacted former employees alleging financial improprieties by Mr. Buchanan, who owns a number of auto dealerships throughout Florida and elsewhere and is one of the richest members of Congress.
In case that’s not enough, the New York Times report added that a federal grand jury in Tampa is hearing evidence in the case, while the House Ethics Committee is investigating Buchanan’s failure to disclose numerous financial interests.
As a rule, when a member of Congress has drawn the interest of the FBI, the IRS, a federal grand jury, and the House Ethics Committee – all at the same time – 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.
Indeed, following up on an item from two weeks ago, the number of House Republicans facing allegations of misconduct – to varying degrees of severity – keeps growing.
* Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is under investigation for insider trading.
* Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) is facing allegations he accepted illegal campaign contributions during his 2010 campaign, aided by a district supporter who’s facing a federal criminal investigation.
* Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), and Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) have been accused of receiving special favors through Countrywide’s VIP mortgage program.
The Hill recently flagged several other pending controversies:
* Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.), who is being investigated by the FBI, IRS, Miami-Dade Police Department’s public corruption unit, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement over allegations that he abused his former seat in Florida’s state House of Representatives for personal financial gain and repeatedly lied on financial disclosure forms.
* Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who came under fire last year when a New York Times article raised questions of legality around his former company’s dealings.
* Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who is accused of owing $117,000 in child support to his ex-wife, which he did not report on his financial disclosure forms and, if true, would violate House rules.
All of this only refers to ongoing controversies, and doesn’t include New York Rep. Chris Lee (R) and Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R), both of whom resigned last year in the wake of sex scandals.
This hasn’t quite reached the “culture of corruption” GOP scandals of 2005 and 2006, but it’s getting there.