The Department of Justice on Tuesday informed U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, that he is no longer under investigation and that no criminal charges will be filed against him, according to Buchanan's lawyers.
Robert Luskin, an attorney with Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C., said the Justice Department never told Buchanan exactly what it was investigating. But his attorneys have presumed that the probe was the result of a "grab bag of allegations" related to claims by Buchanan's former business partner, Sam Kazran, that Buchanan had directed an illegal campaign fundraising scheme.
Luskin said Jack Smith, head of the public integrity unit of the Department of Justice's criminal division, called him Tuesday afternoon to say that the investigation had concluded and that no criminal charges would be filed against Buchanan.
The Justice Department authorized Buchanan to make Tuesday evening's announcement, according to a statement from Buchanan's campaign.
"As we stated from the beginning, any fair-minded inquiry into these allegations would establish that Congressman Buchanan never engaged in wrongdoing," Luskin said.
The Justice Department
said Tuesday night it could not confirm the investigation, which is typical for such probes.
Buchanan's spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts said Buchanan had commitments and was unavailable for an interview.
Luskin said the Department of Justice typically does not disclose when it has ended an investigation with no charges filed. But it does make exceptions when a particular case, like Buchanan's, has drawn extensive publicity.
The Federal Elections Commission also has declined to pursue claims by Kazran that Buchanan had ordered him to use a car dealership they formerly co-owned to illegally reimburse employees for contributions they made to Buchanan's campaign.
The House Ethics Committee is continuing to investigate claims that Buchanan improperly tried to influence Kazran's testimony in the FEC investigation by promising to settle a $2.9 million lawsuit he had filed against Kazran.
Buchanan's opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Keith Fitzgerald, has made the investigations of the congressman's fund-raising and business practices a centerpiece of his effort to unseat Buchanan.
"Nothing today changes the fact that Congressman Buchanan and those like him in Washington are what is wrong with the system," Adam Scott, Keith Fitzgerald's campaign manager, said in a statement Tuesday.
"Congressman Buchanan still has not explained himself to voters, and that is the standard he will be held to in November," the statement added. "The Suncoast deserves better representation than a Congressman that the best that can be said about him is that the Justice Department 'will not bring any criminal charges.' "
Buchanan's statement attempted to distance the accusations from his re-election campaign.
"Today's decision by the Justice Department should put an end to partisan efforts to capitalize on this investigation," Buchanan's campaign said in the release.
-- Erika Bolstad, Herald Washington correspondent, contributed to this report.