The House Ethics Committee will continue its investigation into Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., with a focus on discrepancies in his income taxes and the financial disclosure forms he's required to file as a congressman.
The committee said Monday in a statement that it would continue its investigation. It also noted that "the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee."
However, in a report issued Monday, the Office of Congressional Ethics said it also found "substantial reason to believe that Rep. Buchanan failed to disclose reportable positions and unearned income on his financial disclosure statements" for the years 2007-2010. Buchanan's financial disclosure statements report an amount of unearned income that he received from certain companies that is inconsistent with the amount reported on federal income tax returns.
The OCE is an independent agency that collects and sometimes refers to the Ethics Committee complaints filed against members of the U.S. House. The OCE does not have jurisdiction on the case and the report does not reflect the Ethics Committee's possible conclusions.
Buchanan has been the target of separate Justice Department and Federal Election Commission investigations alleging that he improperly instructed a former business partner, Sam Kazran, to reimburse $67,900 to employees of a Jacksonville auto dealership they co-owned for contributions they made to Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 congressional campaigns.
At first, FEC lawyers believed there was probable cause to pursue a case against Buchanan.
But those concerns were eventually outweighed by a continuing investigation that revealed numerous questions -- some of which Buchanan’s lawyers raised in the congressman’s defense -- about Kazran’s credibility. The investigation has since been closed.
Buchanan last year amended his disclosure statements to include items that had previously not been listed.
“Today’s action by the House Committee on Ethics does not constitute any judgment on the merits," said William McGinley, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Buchanan.
"Rather, the committee’s decision to take more time to review the matter reflects the committee’s heavy workload. The fact is that, in accordance with House rules, members commonly amend their financial disclosure statements. Congressman Buchanan followed the rules, and we are confident that, at the end of its deliberations, the committee will find no violation.”
The report does not say who filed the complaint, as that information is considered confidential.
-- Bradenton Herald reporter Marc R. Masferrer contributed to this story.