First the news: The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Rep. Vern Buchanan violated federal law and House rules by failing, in his financial disclosures, to report his positions in 17 entities.
The new round of allegations could be politically troublesome for Buchanan, the finance vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who has been dogged in the past by unrelated allegations of campaign finance violations.
The committee had announced in December that it was reviewing a report referred to it by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent panel, but did not disclose the nature of the allegations. On Monday, the committee extended its investigation again — and released the report detailing the allegations against Buchanan. But the committee declined to move forward at full speed by forming a special investigative subcommittee.
At issue are positions Buchanan held between 2007 and 2010 with 17 companies and entities that should have been reported on his financial disclosures, but were not. The report also identifies discrepancies in unearned income between Buchanan’s federal tax returns and his financial disclosure forms.
Now, three points shared with me by the Florida Democratic Party’s David Bergstein:
The OCE voted unanimously to recommend Buchanan cases to House Ethics. “The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics recommends that the committee on Ethics further review the above allegations because there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Buchanan failed to disclosure reportable positions and unearned income on his financial disclosure statements for calendar year s 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.” [Office of Congressional Ethics Review No. 11-9366, page 1]
Buchanan failed to disclose a total of 17 reportable positions. “Financial disclosure statements that Representative Buchanan filed form 2008 to 2011 (covering calendar years 2007-2010) do not include the positions that he held with these companies. In total, Representative Buchanan failed to disclosure a total of seventeen reportable positions. [Office of Congressional Ethics Review No. 11-9366, page 3]
The OCE found that there was substantial reason to believe that Buchanan violated the law. “The board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that Representatives Buchanan violated House Rule 26 and the Ethics in Government Act when he failed to report on his financial disclosure statements for calendar years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; (1) reportable positions he held with certain companies and organizations; and (2) unearned income he received from certain companies.” [Office of Congressional Ethics Review No. 11-9366, page 3]