Florida GOP Rep. Buchanan cleared of ethics probe, faces another


WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee has found no wrongdoing by Rep. Vern Buchanan in one review – concluding that his failure to accurately disclose income and holdings in several businesses was not much different from many similar omissions by other lawmakers – but continues a separate probe of the Florida Republican.

Tuesday’s report resolves only some of the ethics questions surrounding Buchanan, a three-term congressman from the Sarasota area. As he seeks reelection in November, Democrats have used the ethics questions in attack ads against Buchanan, who is a rising force in GOP fundraising circles.

Buchanan said he was pleased but not surprised by the committee’s findings, according to a statement from his office. However, the committee continues to review allegations from a former Buchanan business partner.

The former partner, Sam Karzan, claimed the congressman wanted him to sign an affidavit attesting that he had no knowledge of reimbursements given to individuals who contributed to the lawmaker’s campaign account. The former business partner alleged the affidavit was not true, according to a report referred from the Office of Congressional Ethics, but said Buchanan wanted him to sign it as part of a $2.9-million settlement agreement concerning disputes over their car dealerships.

The congressman has strongly denied Karzan’s account, and noted the Federal Elections Commission dropped its inquiry into the matter last year. The ethics office has said an inquiry is no indication of wrongdoing.

In Tuesday’s 12-page report, the committee reviewed allegations referred from the Office of Congressional Ethics contending that Buchanan failed to accurately disclose his ownership positions in six companies and also failed to account for the more than $14,300 in interest income he received from these entities from 2007 to 2010.

Buchanan, indeed, failed to accurately report his financial concerns, but the report said the congressman did not do so knowingly or willfully. The committee’s findings were unanimous.

In an interview with the ethics office, Buchanan said the omissions were “inadvertent,” the report said. A letter from the congressman’s attorney said that the nearly $15,000 amounted to “somewhere between 0.0000434% and 0.00000962% of his total assets” -- noting the “small error relative to the size” of his holdings.

“Representative Buchanan did not report, in complete and accurate detail, all of the positions or ownership interests he held with several entities,” the report said. “However, the committee also unanimously determined that these errors and omissions are not substantively different from the hundreds or thousands of errors and omissions corrected by amendment at the requirement of the committee every year.”

The committee reminded lawmakers that even though they may enlist accountants or aides to prepare disclosure statements, as Buchanan did, the elected official is ultimately responsible for its accuracy.

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