Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (aka CREW) has filed an FBI complaint against Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, asking that the Bureau investigate Buchanan on charges of witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and bribery, based largely on the deposition of one of his former business partners, Sam Kazran.
The Florida Independent first made Kazran’s deposition to the Federal Election Commission public (along with an interview with Kazran) in a piece published on July 29. Buchanan argues that he is the one who brought the matter to the attention of the FEC, but Kazran claims he is only attempting to save himself. In its complaint, CREW alleges that Buchanan “attempted to influence Mr. Kazran’s testimony in the FEC investigation, thereby obstructing it.”
CREW has also asked the House Office of Congressional Ethics to conduct an inquiry into Buchanan.
“The more you learn about Rep. Buchanan, the more morally bankrupt he appears,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan in a press release. “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.”
Kazran has alleged that Buchanan tried to force him to sign an affidavit, clearing the congressman of ties to the reimbursement scheme. Kazran refused to sign that affidavit but did supply the Independent with a copy.
Two of Buchanan and Kazran’s former employees backed up Kazran’s allegations that Buchanan pressured his partners and employees to donate to his 2006 and 2008 campaigns, then later reimbursed them with funds from the dealership, Hyundai of North Jacksonville. The FEC fined Kazran nearly $68,000 for the donations. Kazran freely admits he knew about the reimbursements but was unaware that it was illegal.
Buchanan, meanwhile, has long maintained that he knew nothing of what the FEC called an “extensive, ongoing scheme” and has placed the blame solely on Kazran.
“Faced with an investigation of a widespread illegal reimbursement scheme at his dealership, Rep. Buchanan tried to insulate himself from the allegations by coercing one of his former partners into committing perjury,” reads the CREW complaint. “Rep. Buchanan’s apparent conduct would establish a prima facie case that Rep. Buchanan attempted to tamper with a witness and obstruct an agency proceeding. As a result, CREW respectfully requests that the FBI immediately commence an investigation into this matter.”
The CREW complaint: