SARASOTA -- U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan faces investigations by the IRS, the FBI, the House Ethics Committee, and recently saw the books close on a Federal Elections Commission inquiry.
But all that was brushed aside as Buchanan, one of the top Republican fundraisers in the country, stood side-by-side Saturday night with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a fundraiser in an exclusive neighborhood on Sarasota Bay.
Buchanan, who represents mostly Sarasota and Manatee counties in Congress, called in some of his own local donors to help Boehner raise money for House Republicans running this year. One of the richest members of Congress, Buchanan is the finance chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Its aim is to hold onto the GOP majority in the House of Representatives.
A spokesman for Boehner’s political action committee did not address the ongoing investigations, which revolve mostly around campaign finance practices. Boehner and Buchanan spent much of the day together; the speaker and seven others played golf in Sarasota earlier in the day.
“The speaker appreciates Congressman Buchanan’s hard work on behalf of the NRCC to ensure Republican members and candidates have the needed tools to compete and win in November,” said Boehner’s spokesman Cory Fritz, adding that they are “glad he’s able to join us.”
Boehner attended a similar fundraiser for Buchanan last year, at the same location: the home of Sarasota developer Charles Githler and his wife, Kim, an executive in the video investing network MoneyShow. It has evolved into something of an annual event, although this year the fundraiser is to benefit Boehner’s political action committee to help other Republicans get elected to the House.
Those attending were required to give at least $500. Those on the host committee were required to donate $2,500; a photo with the speaker during a VIP reception cost $5,000 a person.
Buchanan’s Democratic opponent, Keith Fitzgerald, used the visit to raise money, too. His campaign sent out an email noting a recent New York Times editorial that criticized Boehner for the fundraiser, and asked for supporters to make “a small contribution to the campaign and let John Boehner know that the Washington insiders are not going to elect our Congressman.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chimed in, too, announcing it would place advertising on the top of gas pumps in Buchanan’s district. The ads allude to the investigations and say: “Your congressman Vern Buchanan. Looking out for himself -- not you.”
A spokesman for Boehner declined to say how much money the event raised. Joe Gruthers, the chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party, described it Saturday as “enough to make it worthwhile for Boehner to visit.”