Washington, D.C. – Witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and bribery are all in a day’s work for the ethically challenged Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL). The Sarasota congressman orchestrated an elaborate scheme that forced his employees to contribute to his campaign, ensuring they would be illegally reimbursed with corporate money. Doubling down on the criminal behavior, he attempted to bribe a former business partner with almost $3 million in hush money in a clumsy attempt to cover up the conspiracy. It’s no wonder he’s been named by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) as one of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress. Click here to read the full report on Rep. Buchanan.
“Just when you think Rep. Buchanan can’t sink any lower, he does,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Not content with merely coercing employees to participate in a conduit contribution scheme, he offered a former business partner almost $3 million to lie under oath about it. While he has plenty of worthy competition, Rep. Buchanan is certainly one of the most corrupt members of Congress.”
Rep. Buchanan’s zeal to get elected was not constrained by the bounds of the law. According to former business partner Sam Kazran, and several former employees, people who made contributions to Rep. Buchanan’s congressional campaigns were reimbursed with corporate funds. In 2008, CREW and two former dealership employees filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) regarding these allegations. The FEC notified Rep. Buchanan in 2011 that it found reason to believe he knowingly broke the law. Despite this revelation, commissioners declined to take further action.
In his deposition to the FEC, Mr. Kazran testified under oath that Rep. Buchanan offered him $2.9 million to sign an agreement claiming Rep. Buchanan was not involved in any wrongdoing. Since this statement was false, and signing it would have constituted a felony, Mr. Kazran refused. Rep. Buchanan’s actions meet the textbook definition of bribery, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice.
“The case against Rep. Buchanan perfectly illustrates just how worthless the FEC is,” said Ms. Sloan. “It’s clear that he belongs in cuffs, not Congress, and yet with even such an open and shut case, the commission still refused to act. Now it is time for the Department of Justice to step in and send a clear message that politicians who abuse the public trust will be held accountable. Allowing Rep. Buchanan to get away with his criminal behavior only reinforces the historically dismal view the American people have in their current elected officials.”
This is the 7th edition of the CREW’S Most Corrupt Report, an annual look at a bipartisan collection of Washington’s worst. This year’s list includes seven Democrats, and 12 Republicans. Five are repeat offenders. Since 2005, CREW has named 70 members of Congress to the list, 32 of whom are no longer in office.