A federal judge in Florida has rejected a motion by the Federal Election Commission to fine the former business partner of Rep. Vern Buchanan, potentially opening up the Florida Republican to questions over improper campaign donations.
The Justice Department is already investigating whether Buchanan, a former car dealership owner, asked his former associate, Sam Kazran, to encourage employees to make straw donations to the lawmaker.
The FEC has sued Kazran in federal court, seeking to impose a nearly $68,000 fine on Kazran for tens of thousands of illegal conduit contributions to Buchanan’s reelection campaigns during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles. The FEC also wants to fine Hyundai of North Jacksonville a similar amount.
Kazran has claimed that he was making the $50,000 in conduit donations at Buchanan’s direction, an allegation that Buchanan has denied.
The FEC asked U.S. District Judge Judge Roy B. Dalton, Jr., to approve a motion for summary judgment against Kazran, but Dalton ruled against the agency.
“The Court is reluctant to grant partial summary judgment on the issue of liability where the FEC’s theory of liability is unclear, especially where one theory may suggest that individuals who are not defendants in this enforcement action may have violated the statute as well,” Dalton wrote.
In a footnote to his ruling, Dalton said, “The prudent course is for the FEC to precisely present its theory or theories of liability, marshal its evidence in support of each theory, and permit Kazran an opportunity to present argument and evidence in opposition.”