In a report issued today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (aka CREW) lists the 11 “most embarrassing re-elections of 2010,” naming Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, among them and citing a long list of allegations of campaign finance violations as evidence. Buchanan’s name comes up frequently in news articles speculating about which Republicans will compete to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012.
From the CREW report on Buchanan:
A new allegation of conduit contributions to Rep. Buchanan’s campaign committee surfaced during his most recent term. In a deposition in a lawsuit, Terry Keith Howell, a registered Democrat, said he had been reimbursed for a donation he unwillingly made to Rep. Buchanan’s campaign in 2008. Mr. Howell said the $8,800 contribution he made to Rep. Buchanan and the $10,000 he gave to the Republican Party of Florida were reimbursed by his partners in a trucking company, including developer Timothy Mobley. Mr. Mobley, his family, and his employees were Rep. Buchanan’s largest group of donors. Mr. Howell was in bankruptcy when he made the contributions.
Rep. Buchanan, who owns several car dealerships in Florida, has been repeatedly accused of raising improper campaign contributions. After he began his congressional campaign in 2005, he raised $110,000 from employees of his dealerships and their families over one seven-day period. Several employees later said Rep. Buchanan pressured them to make contributions to his campaign.
The allegations by former employees of Rep. Buchanan’s car dealerships range from coercion to make campaign contributions for which they were later reimbursed to receiving awards, such as the use of Rep. Buchanan’s vacation house, in exchange for contributing to his campaign. Also, a former employee alleged Rep. Buchanan repeatedly used dealership cars for campaign purposes and that campaign materials were stored at the dealership.
Rep. Buchanan was named a defendant in at least 13 lawsuits filed by former employees and at least one by a former business partner. The various suits charge that Rep. Buchanan and his dealerships engaged in malfeasance, committed fraud, and coerced campaign donations from employees. None of the suits have yet gone to trial. Rep. Buchanan has dismissed the lawsuits as politically motivated.
In August 2008, CREW filed a complaint against Rep. Buchanan and his campaign committee with the Federal Elections Commission alleging serious violations of campaign finance law. The complaint remains unresolved.
And here is the report in full: