To read about our year-end Best of The Florida Independent series, click here. For complete coverage, click here.

The story:

A year ago last week, The Florida Independent’s Virginia Chamlee became the first reporter anywhere to write about a Federal Election Commission lawsuit filed against a former business partner of Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, as well as a car dealership the two once co-owned.

Since then, Chamlee has published dozens of stories about the ongoing scandal over allegations that Buchanan pressured employees to donate to his 2006 and 2008 campaigns and then reimbursed them with dealership funds. But no story was as consequential as the one we published on July 29, in which Chamlee spoke extensively with Sam Kazran, Buchanan’s former business partner, and surfaced a 118-page sworn deposition that Kazran gave to FEC lawyers.

In both the interview and the deposition, Kazran admitted he knew about the campaign reimbursement scheme, but said he was unaware it was illegal, and that Buchanan himself orchestrated the plan. Chamlee later spoke with two Buchanan/Kazran employees who backed up Kazran’s version of events.

The impact:

Basing their complaint largely on Chamlee’s reporting, as well as the Kazran deposition, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the FBI to investigate Buchanan in August.

“The more you learn about Rep. Buchanan, the more morally bankrupt he appears,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a press release, announcing CREW’s call for a federal investigation. “Not content with merely coercing employees to participate in a conduit contribution scheme, he offered a former business partner nearly $3 million to lie under oath about it. … There is no question Rep. Buchanan sought to have Mr. Kazran lie under oath. It’s right there in black and white in the text of the affidavit.”

CREW later named Buchanan to its list of the “most corrupt” members of Congress, again extensively citing Chamlee’s reporting and the Kazran deposition.

To read about our year-end Best of The Florida Independent series, click here. For complete coverage, click here.

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