Jul 11, 2012
FACT CHECK: Congressman Buchanan Falsely Claims That He Is “Cleared”
Yesterday, Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16) falsely claimed that he has been “cleared” by the House Committee on Ethics.
In reality, the bipartisan ethics panel found that Congressman Buchanan did not report ownership interests or income he received as “required by law” and continues to face at least four ongoing federal probes that “could result in Buchanan serving his next term behind bars.” Congressman Buchanan still faces serious investigations by the FBI, IRS, and a federal grand jury for his roles in a scheme to funnel money from his corporations into his campaign coffers and tax evasion. In addition, the House Ethics Committee is still investigating Congressman Buchanan for bribing his business partner with a $2.9 million settlement in return for lying about Buchanan's role in the illegal fundraising scheme.
Last time Congressman Vern Buchanan attempted to claim “exoneration” in a federal probe, the investigation found that Congressman Buchanan “more likely than not” violated federal election laws and questioned his credibility.
Buchanan Claimed to Be “Cleared” Despite Multiple Ongoing Investigations. “Buchanan's office immediately blasted out a news release Tuesday declaring ‘Buchanan Cleared’ […]But the new development does not clear Buchanan in the numerous other investigations and allegations he is facing. CNN has confirmed that several other federal and congressional investigations are looking into Buchanan's business activities, campaign finance accounts, and the allegations of attempting to intimidate a witness. The FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and the IRS are all investigating Buchanan, and a grand jury has been hearing testimony in Tampa, Florida.” [CNN, 7/10/12]
Buchanan Is Under Investigation by the FBI, IRS, and a Federal Grand Jury. “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 […] 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. A federal grand jury in Tampa is hearing evidence in the case as well.” [New York Times, 2/24/12]
House Ethics Investigating Potential Violations of Federal Bribery, Obstruction, and Witness Tampering Laws. “ The report asks the Ethics Committee to consider whether Buchanan violated federal bribery, obstruction and witness tampering laws -- all of which have criminal penalties. It also says there's "substantial reason to believe" Buchanan violated House rules of conduct requiring members behave at all times "in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.” […] The Office of Congressional Ethics report also notes that they were "unable to discuss with Representative Buchanan his involvement, if any, with directing reimbursements of campaign contributions because he refused to cooperate with the OCE Review." [Bradenton Herald, 5/09/12]
The Word “Exonerated” Notably Absent from FEC Investigation. “According to Congressman Vern Buchanan's spin team, the Federal Election Commission ‘exonerated’ him after an investigation of alleged campaign fund violations […] But I've read it, and the word exoneration is notably absent. What the report says is that the commission fell just short on proof and won't be charging him even though he might well be guilty and seems to be lying […] ‘The evidence in this case comes close to supporting a finding that it is more likely than not’ that Buchanan violated two statutes.” [Sarasota Herald Tribune, 12/24/12]
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]