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Sarasota Herald Tribune: Buchanan Campaign Acknowledges Justice Department Investigation

Sarasota Herald Tribune: Buchanan Campaign Acknowledges Justice Department Investigation

By Jeremy Wallace

The Justice Department is investigating District 13 congressional Rep. Vern Buchanan in connection with illegal campaign donations that supported his past campaigns for Congress.

Buchanan’s campaign said in a statement to the media that its officials “look forward to cooperating fully” with the inquiry, but declined to discuss details of the investigation’s focus.

Attempts to reach the Justice Department for comment late Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The investigation came to light three months after Buchanan’s former business partner Sam Kazran told a federal judge that Buchanan left threatening phone messages and tried to coerce him into signing a false affidavit to cover up Buchanan’s alleged role in the illegal donation scheme dating back to 2005.

A government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, then petitioned the FBI in August to investigate the allegations.

Buchanan’s campaign has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has pointed the finger at Kazran, characterizing him as a disgruntled former business partner seeking to smear Buchanan.

The Federal Election Commission in December sued Kazran, who was a partner with Buchanan in the Hyundai of North Jacksonville dealership in 2005. The agency has accused Kazran of reimbursing dealership employees and family members for giving almost $68,000 in campaign contributions to Buchanan’s congressional campaigns in 2006 and 2008.

In April, Kazran admitted in court documents that he reimbursed employees, but said he did so at Buchanan’s direction. Buchanan’s campaign denied those allegations.

A federal judge last week levied a $67,900 fine against Hyundai of North Jacksonville. Kazran is still fighting a personal fine.

Kazran could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

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