Congressional ethics investigation finds that Rep. Buchanan likely violated federal law
The details of an ethics investigation into discrepancies on the 2008-2011 financial disclosures of Sarasota Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan were made public Monday. According to its report, the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended that the Committee on Ethics further review the allegations after finding “substantial reason to believe that Representative Buchanan violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law” during the course of its investigation.
On Nov. 8, 2011, the House Committee on Ethics received a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics about past Buchanan financial disclosures. On Dec. 22, the chairman and ranking member of the committee jointly decided to extend their review until today. Pursuant to committee rules, the findings of that investigation have now been made public.
According to the Office of Congressional Ethics report, Buchanan failed to disclose a total of 17 positions he held when filing financial disclosure statements from 2008 to 2011.
Buchanan has told the Office that the discrepancies were merely the result of “oversight” and were unintentional, such as his position as a managing member of a company called Boca Creek Development.
From the report (PDF):
“When asked about the discrepancy on his financial disclosure statements, Representative Buchanan told the OCE that his position as a managing member of Boca Creek Development Company, LLC was not disclosed on his financial disclosure statements as the result of an ‘oversight.’ He stated he has no duties as a managing member and that the company ‘is just a pure investment.’ He also stated that he has not attended any of the company’s meetings, but his business partner John Tosch attends on his behalf.”
Though his income tax returns list almost $9,000 in interest income from the company between 2007 and 2009, Buchanan’s financial disclosure statements from those years do not list Boca Creek Development as a source of any income. According to the report, Buchanan told the Office that “he was not aware that he received any compensation from the company and that he does not know how he could have received interest income from the unused land.” Buchanan has since filed amended financial disclosures for those years.
Based on the findings made during the investigation, the Office board is recommending that the Committee on Ethics further review the allegations, “because there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Buchanan violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
Though Buchanan did file amended financial disclosure reports, the Office felt that “further review is necessary to permit the Committee on Ethics to apply its Policy Regarding Amendments to Financial Disclosure Statements and determine whether the amendments were filed with a presumption of good faith.”
The Office launched a separate investigation into Buchanan in October, examining a pattern of questionable contributions made to his 2006 and 2008 campaigns. The Department of Justice launched its own investigation into the allegations that Buchanan offered reimbursements for donations made to his campaigns. Though the department has neither confirmed nor denied the investigation, the Buchanan camp has said that the investigation was to be expected.
Buchanan is currently in his third term in Congress, and acts as a finance official at the National Republican Congressional Committee.