The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will begin airing radio ads this week targeting Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, whose alleged business and fundraising dealings have recently been the subject of litigation.
Buchanan’s former business partner, Sam Kazran, was recently ordered by a judge to pay a fine of $67,900 to the Federal Election Commission. According to a complaint filed by the FEC last December, a Jacksonville Hyundai dealership owned by Kazran (and, at the time, co-owned by Buchanan) reimbursed employees’ contributions to Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 congressional campaigns.
Buchanan sold his stake in the company in 2008, and was not named as a party in the suit. The dealership was issued the fine for what the Election Commission called an “extensive and ongoing scheme” to funnel “secret, illegal contributions” to Buchanan. It is illegal for individuals to be reimbursed for campaign donations or for companies to route political contributions through individuals. The dealership was also found to be in violation of excessive campaign contribution laws.
Though Kazran (and the now-dissolved Hyundai North Jacksonville) admitted to using dealership funds to reimburse campaign donors, he has alleged that he did so at the insistence of Buchanan himself. Speaking with the Bradenton Herald, Kazran described himself as a “regular Joe,” who committed a crime seemingly by accident. As quoted by the Herald, Kazran said that the illegal scheme was a “directive” issued by Buchanan, who told a group of potential donors that he needed to raise $1 million “to look good.”
No less than 14 lawsuits have named Buchanan in recent years, and some of his former employees have alleged being pressured into donating to his campaigns. In one instance, a group of his employees helped generate $110,000 in campaign contributions in a span of only seven days.
As the current vice chair for finance of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Buchanan faces some tough questions. Though he has yet to be found in violation of campaign finance law, the 2006 and 2008 allegations were made on his watch, to his campaign by a company in which he then owned a majority share.
Jesse Ferguson, press agent for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says he is unaware of any public description of the role of “vice chairman for finance of the NRCC,” but points out that The Washington Post recently described Buchanan as a “rising third-term House member who helps lead fundraising efforts for congressional Republicans.” Buchanan was named a member of the Republican Congressional Committee’s “leadership team” in January, less than a month after the FEC filed its suit against his former dealership.
According to a press release, the Democrats will begin running its news-weather-traffic radio ad in Florida’s 13th district starting Monday.
Here’s what the ad says:
Congressman Vern Buchanan. His old business was caught illegally funneling over sixty thousand dollars in campaign donations to Buchanan to influence his election. Tell Buchanan to come clean.