The House Ethics Committee said today that it would continue reviewing whether Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) offered almost $3 million to settle a series of legal disputes with a former business partner in exchange for him filing a false affidavit with the Federal Election Commission.
The panel’s statement was accompanied by the release of an independent ethics office’s voluminous report detailing the allegations under review and the response it received from Buchanan.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further referral, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” read the joint statement issued by Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and ranking member Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.).
The joint release is required by a mandatory disclosure element in the Congressional ethics review process and will be the last time the committee is required to make a statement on the matter unless it convenes a formal investigative subcommittee.
The independent and bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics in September began examining whether Buchanan’s attorney had, with his knowledge, urged former business associate Sam Kazran to submit an affidavit to the FEC in October 2008 that falsely stated the Florida lawmaker and his representatives had until that point been unaware that Kazran’s car dealership employees were being reimbursed for their contributions to the Buchanan for Congress campaign.
If Kazran dropped all litigation against Buchanan and his affiliated business entities and submitted the affidavit, the letter from Buchanan’s attorney attached to the OCE report said, Kazran would receive $2.9 million from a company owned by Buchanan as a settlement and to retire any debts.
However, email and witness accounts cited in the OCE report confirm that Buchanan and his business associates had known at least some weeks before of a reimbursement scheme that dated back to 2005.
“This is the lst [sic] set of checks, there are more to follow, It gives me great regret to have done this for Vern when he doesn’t even hesitates [sic] for a second to sue me and my wife over 20k,” Kazran wrote in a Sept. 8, 2008, email to Buchanan’s assistant.
The copies of cancelled checks attached to the email totaled more than $80,000.
“Sam, Vern. Sorry I didn’t get your message, but, Sam, Mike Lindell told me the other day that you’re going to sue us or threatening to sue us. ... I think the threatening of political stuff and all that you got more liability than you know if you start telling people that you reimbursed people because technically you have the liability,” Buchanan said during a voicemail left for Kazran during the same time period.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.