In a case filed Friday in Florida’s Middle District, the Federal Election Commission alleges a pattern of questionable contributions made to the 2006 and 2008 campaigns of Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. Though Buchanan himself isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit, a company he owned and a business partner are being accused of offering reimbursements for money donated to his campaign, and of violating excessive contribution laws.
This isn’t the first time Buchanan has been in hot water over campaign contributions.
In June 2008, two former executives at Buchanan-owned car dealerships came forward to allege that they had been pressured to donate to the campaign, and were offered reimbursements in return. According to a 2009 piece in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Buchanan’s employees “helped generate $110,000 in campaign contributions in a 7-day span.”
Buchanan vehemently denied those allegations, again playing defense during his 2010 campaign, in which allegations of campaign fraud continued to abound. In the past few years, at least 14 lawsuits have been filed by Buchanan’s former employees, each alleging pressure to contribute to the campaign and the offer of reimbursements in return.
The most recently filed case comes against Buchanan’s Jacksonville Hyundai dealership and its current owner, Sam Kazran. According to the complaint, Kazran (who also goes by the name Sam Khazrawan) owned a 49 percent share of the dealership till 2008, when he purchased Buchanan’s shares to become sole owner.
The allegations stem from Buchanan’s 2006 campaign, for which he sought donations beginning in 2005.
According to the complaint, Kazran and Hyundai of North Jacksonville reimbursed $16,800 in contributions to Vern Buchanan for Congress in 2005. In 2006, Kazran arranged for the reimbursement of $32,700 in contributions to Buchanan’s campaign, and in 2007, the dealership reimbursed $18,400. According to the suit, “in total, defendants used [Hyundai of North Jacksonville] funds to reimburse at least $67,900 in purported individual contributions to [Vern Buchanan for Congress] during Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 congressional campaigns.”
The suit alleges that the campaign contributions and reimbursements were made in violation of several election laws: According to the complaint, funds from Hyundai of North Jacksonville were essentially being used as a donation in the name of another.
Because the funds were all procured through Buchanan’s car dealership, they were also technically in excess of the statutory $2,100 donation limit. (That limit rose to $2,300 during the 2008 election cycle.) The maximum civil penalty for violating campaign contribution rules is $6,500 per violation.
Read the complaint: