WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee on Friday ended a four-year investigation into Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, finding no evidence that the lawmaker violated House rules.
The ethics panel said in a report that there is not enough evidence to conclude that Buchanan himself was aware of unlawful payments made by companies affiliated with him to reimburse campaign contributors. Still, the committee cautioned Buchanan to "exercise more diligence over affairs related to his campaign."
Buchanan, in his fifth term representing the Sarasota area, said in a statement that he was pleased the ethics committee had dismissed a campaign finance complaint dating back to 2008.
"The committee conducted a thorough review of the facts and reached a unanimous and bipartisan conclusion that I did nothing wrong," he said.
Buchanan had been under scrutiny for several years after a former business partner alleged that Buchanan used straw donors to funnel thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to his campaigns via employees at two car dealerships Buchanan owned.
Buchanan denied the allegations by Sam Kazran, as well as Kazran's claim that Buchanan pressured him into signing a false affidavit regarding illegal campaign contributions.
The independent Office of Congressional Ethics asked the ethics panel to investigate Buchanan in January 2012 after finding there was "substantial reason to believe" that Buchanan attempted to influence Kazran's testimony in a proceeding before the Federal Election Commission.
The ethics panel said in its report that there was insufficient evidence "to show precisely what role … if any" Buchanan had in drafting an affidavit used in the FEC proceeding.
The committee said in its 26-page report that Buchanan "could not explain the unusual pattern of reimbursed contributions from multiple corporate entities with which he was affiliated." The committee said it does not believe that such violations are "bound to occur" in any campaign, as Buchanan asserted in testimony before the ethics panel.
The committee's report was issued by Reps. Charles Dent, R-Pa., and Linda Sanchez, D-Calif. Dent chairs the ethics panel while Sanchez is its senior Democrat.