FBI Investigating Cliff Stearns For Bribery, Claims Republican Opponent

March 7, 2012 12:11 p.m.

A Florida Republican waging a primary bid against Rep. Cliff Stearns said the FBI is investigating the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chairman for allegedly using a middle man to try to bribe him out of the primary.

Clay County Clerk of Courts James Jett claimed that former state Education Commissioner Jim Horne served as Stearns’ middleman, Adam Kealoha Causey of the Florida Times-Union reports. Jett claims he was offered cash to cover the cost of his campaign and appointments to political positions in exchange for dropping out, and that he has the tapes to prove it.“I’ve got this on tape,” Jett said, according to the Times-Union. “This has national ramifications, and I don’t want to harm the Republican Party.”

Jett claims he was told he could head the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or become a U.S. Marshal once an opening came up. (The idea that Stearn could recommend Jett for a U.S. Marshals position seems like a bit of a stretch, as the current Marshal for the Middle District of Florida was appointed in November 2010 and the White House typically consults with senators about filling vacancies.)

A Stearns spokesman denied the allegations, according to Chad Pergram of Fox News. Special Agent Jeff Westcott of the FBI’s Jacksonville office declined to comment to TPM Wednesday. Westcott said that agents could not prevent those involved in investigations from speaking to the media. “People are free to say whatever they want to whoever they want,” he said. “We can’t impose a gag order.”

Stearns has been leading the House investigation into government loans to the failed solar panel company Solyndra.

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