The new yacht smell has barely worn off of Vern Buchanan’s 73-foot ocean liner. But it is causing the Florida congressman’s re-election campaign to take on water this week, after a report raising questions about the seven-figure bank loan Buchanan used to finance the vessel.
Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, borrowed as much as $5 million from a Canadian bank that was lobbying for the GOP tax bill in 2017, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting said. Buchanan, who leads the Ways and Means subcommittee on tax policy, bought the boat on the same day he voted for the tax package.
It is unclear how much drag the episode will have on Buchanan’s campaign. Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales ranks the district Likely Republican. But Democrats, seeing an opportunity to throw the six-term incumbent off course, bore down.
The state’s Democratic Party coined the term “yachtgate” in a press release Thursday, citing Buchanan’s “shady dealings” with the bank, BMO Harris Bank.
Attorney David Shapiro, Buchanan’s likely opponent in November, made a statement questioning Buchanan’s allegiances.
“It’s time Vern Buchanan answer the question once and for all: is he representing Florida families in Washington, or his special interests?” Shapiro said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
That was on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising a liberal dark money group bought earlier this month, when Buchanan’s purchase of the boat was first reported. The group, Floridians for a Fair Shake, offered a $500 reward for a picture of the boat, Entrepreneur, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Buchanan, who is worth at least $80 million, got a separate loan from the bank, worth between $5 million and $25 million, to buy a $9 million plane around the same time the bank began lobbying lawmakers on “tax reform proposals,” according to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times.
The Buchanan campaign told local news outlets that BMO Harris never lobbied Buchanan.
“The story is Vern bought a yacht and financed it from a bank that supported the tax cut bill just like every other bank there is,” Max Goodman, Buchanan’s campaign manager, told the Bradenton Herald. “The story here is just innuendo with zero evidence of wrongdoing.”
House rules prohibit lawmakers from getting loans at below-market rates, but members are not required to publicly disclose the terms of loans that they receive.
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