Politics & Government

Buchanan bought his yacht with loan from bank that lobbied for tax reform

A new report says Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, took a loan from a foreign-owned bank that lobbied the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives for tax reform. According to the House Ethics Committee, it would be a violation of congressional gift rules if he accepted a loan at a below-market rate.
A new report says Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, took a loan from a foreign-owned bank that lobbied the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives for tax reform. According to the House Ethics Committee, it would be a violation of congressional gift rules if he accepted a loan at a below-market rate.

The purchase of Rep. Vern Buchanan’s multimillion dollar yacht may have been financed by a foreign bank looking to influence a tax bill he helped write, according to a new report.

A financial disclosure report filed with the Clerk of the House points to a loan of between $1 and $5 million received in December 2017, around the time that the Tax Cut and Jobs Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump. Buchanan, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and leader of the tax policy subcommittee, helped author the bill.

BMO Harris Bank, a subsidiary of the Canadian Bank of Montreal, began lobbying the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives for “tax reform proposals” in January 2017. Federal lobbying disclosure documents note that while BMO’s lobbying activity was of its own accord, “the registrant’s foreign parent, Bank of Montreal, has an interest in the aforementioned lobbying issue.”

According to documents uncovered by MapLight, an outlet dedicated to tracking political money, BMO spent at least $340,000 lobbying politicians for tax reform.

Democrat David Shapiro, who is running to unseat Buchanan from his Florida 16th Congressional District seat, has harped on the connection to attack the controversial yacht purchase once more.

“Last month, we learned Congressman Buchanan used his position in Washington to line his own pockets to the tune of $2.1 million, while working and retired Floridians paid the price,” Shapiro said. “Today, we learned the congressman financed his yacht with a loan from a foreign bank lobbying on the tax bill.”

Both BMO Harris Bank and Buchanan, the eighth wealthiest congressman in the nation, stood to benefit from the tax cut. One group estimated $2.1 million in savings for the Sarasota lawmaker.

According to Florida Politics, the House Ethics Committee says that a loan given at a below-market interest rates violates congressional gift rules. Buchanan has not disclosed the terms of his loan.

“It’s time Vern Buchanan answer the question once and for all: Is he representing Florida families in Washington or his special interests?” Shapiro said.

The Buchanan campaign claims BMO Harris never lobbied Buchanan and that the allegations are paper-thin.

“The story is Vern bought a yacht and financed it from a bank that supported the tax cut bill just like every other bank there is,” said Max Goodman, Buchanan’s campaign manager. “The story here is just innuendo with zero evidence of wrongdoing.”

In a statement, Goodman turned back to accusations of hypocrisy by Shapiro, who owns stock in controversial companies.

“This is another example of dishonest attacks by David Shapiro’s left-wing cronies. Shapiro is hoping to deflect attention from his personal investments in Halliburton Corp. and in a company that makes assault rifles as he calls for a ban on the very same weapons.”

Buchanan, a six-term congressman, awaits the Democrat opponent who will be officially chosen to run against him following the Aug. 28 primary race. The race continues to heat up as the 16th Congressional District draws attention from national pollsters who say the Republican-heavy district may flip to the Democrats.

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