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Updated: 3:50 p.m.
The Federal Election Commission has closed its file on Rep. Vern Buchanan and its examination of campaign contributions from a car dealership the Florida Republican once owned. Buchanan's campaign said he had been cleared, releasing a letter from the FEC in response to a new Democratic attack ad.
FEC spokesman Christian Hilland confirmed to Roll Call on Monday that the Office of General Counsel sent letters notifying Buchanan’s lawyer that there would be “no further action” and that the FEC would “close the file as to Rep. Buchanan.”
The FEC had accused Hyundai of North Jacksonville, a now-defunct car dealership once partially owned by Buchanan, of breaking campaign finance law by exceeding the legal contribution limit to a campaign by repaying employees for donations to Buchanan’s House campaign.
It appears that the FEC chose to close its file on Buchanan in this case months ago. His campaign released a letter from the FEC dated Feb. 7 that said the file “regarding allegations that he knowingly received contributions in the name of another and knowingly received excessive contributions” had been closed.
Over the past several months, Democrats have used the issue to target Buchanan.
On Friday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began a weeklong radio ad run on four stations in Buchanan’s district.
“Congressman Vern Buchanan. His old business was caught illegally funneling over sixty thousand dollars in campaign donations to Buchanan to influence his election,” the ad says, according to a DCCC release. “Tell Buchanan to come clean.”
The Buchanan campaign said in a release that the FEC “gave Buchanan permission to release the letters in the face of bogus political attacks by Democrats.”
“The Democrats’ partisan attacks have now backfired in the face of Buchanan’s complete exoneration by the FEC,” campaign spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts said in the release.
The DCCC pushed back on Monday afternoon. “The FEC is seeking fines from a business that Vern Buchanan owned at the time for an ‘extensive and ongoing scheme’ of ‘secret illegal contributions’ to help his campaign and we’re going to make sure his constituents know about it,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in a statement.
The Buchanan campaign says he sold the dealership in 2005. However, the FEC said in February that “Buchanan owned a majority interest in HNJ until 2008.”