Florida GOPer Vern Buchanan Said FEC ‘Exonerated’ Him — It Didn’t

December 21, 2011 6:26 a.m.

The Federal Election Commission thinks Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) either lied to them or has a terrible memory problem.

An FEC report obtained by TPM about allegations that Buchanan had his former car company reimburse employees for donations to his political campaign finds that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that Buchanan broke the law. Buchanan’s team had previously claimed that he was “completely exonerated” by the commission, citing letters from the FEC.Not quite. The FEC’s general counsel report finds that Buchanan’s “lack of recall” about an affidavit his lawyers asked his former business partner to sign “does not seem credible.”

“It is improbable that Buchanan’s attorneys drafted the affidavit and presented it to [Sam] Kazran without Buchanan’s involvement considering that (1) the affidavit did not concern the subject of the commercial negotiations, but rather Buchanan’s knowledge of reimbursed contributions to [Vern Buchanan Federal Campaign], and (2) it was presented to a former Buchanan partner who, according to respondents, was threatening to go to Buchanan’s political opponent or the Commission before the 2008 election with his allegation that Buchanan ordered him to reimburse contributions,” the report states.

Buchanan’s testimony, the FEC said, “is also internally inconsistent, contradicted by a statement in an interview of the former VBFC treasurer Nancy Watkins that she was unaware of any documents prepared for Buchanan’s business partners regarding campaign finance law, and not supported by the documents actually produced by the VBFC.”

Buchanan — recently backed by National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) — told the FEC that he could not remember “one way or the other” if he asked Kazran to fundraise for the 2006 election, though the FEC found there “is evidence that Buchanan did ask, and it raises legitimate questions as to Buchanan’s credibility that he could not admit this innocuous fact.”

The report continued: “Despite not remembering whether he asked Kazran to fundraise in 2006, Buchanan was certain that he told Kazran not to reimbuse contributions,” statements the FEC said “are largely inconsistent with each other, and are inconsistent with the other evidence.”

Buchanan’s lawyers said that his memory may have “imperfections” or contain “minor membory lapses.” The FEC said that Buchanan’s “inability to remember basic facts as to these uncontroversial, routine issues detracts from his credibility.”

The report concludes that the evidence in the case “comes close to supporting a finding that it is more likely than not that” Buchanan violated the law. But the FEC said there were “significant concerns regarding the credibility” of Buchanan’s former business partner Kazran.

“While there is some other evidence in the record that is consistent with Kazran’s general allegations, other evidence supports Buchanan’s denials or is ambigous,” the general counsel’s report states, recommending that the FEC close the file.

The report, obtained by TPM, is embedded below:

FEC Vern Buchanan Report

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