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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Vern Buchanan financial disclosures include $100k discrepancy



Did or did not U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan get at least $100,000 in rental income from one of his Sarasota properties?

That’s the question raised by a discrepancy between the Sarasota Republican’s personal financial disclosure statements and reports he filed with the Federal Election Commission.

In 2008, Buchanan’s campaign told the FEC it was renting office space from Jamatt Properties. Jamatt is one of Buchanan’s many companies, named after sons James and Matthew. The arrangement meant Buchanan essentially was renting from himself, and his financial disclosure for 2008 showed he received income from Jamatt in the range of $100,000 to $1 million.

Last year, in the midst of a House ethics committee investigation,  Buchanan amended his 2008 disclosure. But the amended document still showed him receiving up to $1 million in rents from Jamatt in 2008. 

In July, the ethics committee said it had found numerous errors in Buchanan’s financial disclosures but would not pursue punitive action. A month later, Buchanan amended his 2008 report yet again. This time, though, the amended disclosure did not show any income at all from Jamatt in 2008. That’s at odds with reports filed with the FEC that year showing Buchanan’s company regularly collected rent from the Buchanan campaign in 2008.

“You can’t file two reports with two agencies that are inconsistent,’’ said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “So one of these reports is wrong and perhaps deliberately so and the question is, Why? ‘

Asked about the discrepancy Tuesday, a Buchanan spokeswoman emailed this brief response: “Our FEC and Personal Financial Disclosure reports are publicly filed and in full compliance with federal regulations.’’

Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel of the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, said that “isn’t an answer at all’’ to the question: Did or did not Buchanan get rental income from one of his properties?

“It’s not all that uncommon for candidates to make errors in disclosure reports both to FEC and Congress itself and to correct the errors through amendment,’’ Ryan said. “But I think it’s fully reasonable  to ask for an explanation of what’s going on here.’’

Buchanan's attorneys offered a complicated response via email:

"Both the 2008 FEC report and the August 2012 amended financial disclosure statement are correct. The FEC report correctly reflects the campaign's rent payments to Jamatt Properties. The August 8, 2012, amendment to Congressman Buchanan's calendar year 2008 financial disclosure statement was made in cooperation with the House Committee on Ethics, which reviewed the amendment prior to filing. That amendment properly reports no net income from Jamatt Properties, LLC pursuant to the Ethics Committee's instructions applicable to reporting a partner's share of business income from Schedule K-1 entities, and was made pursuant to specific consultation with the Ethics Committee on that issue."

Susan Taylor Martin, Times Senior Correspondent

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 4:54pm]


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