Vern Buchanan’s Democratic opponent pounces on latest report about the congressman’s yacht

A report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting detailed how Buchanan received a seven-figure loan from a company lobbying Congress on the tax legislation that ran through a committee he sits on.
Left to right: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in 2017 (Associated Press)
Left to right: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in 2017 (Associated Press)
Published Aug. 22, 2018|Updated Aug. 22, 2018

Rep. Vern Buchanan's yacht is in the news again.

A Monday report detailed how the Republican congressman, who represents parts of Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties, financed the purchase of a 73-foot luxury ship with a seven-figure loan from BMO Harris, a subsidiary of a Canadian bank — while helping to craft the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Buchanan's likely Democratic opponent in November, attorney David Shapiro, pounced on the report, published by a partnership between the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, MapLight and Capital & Main.

"Today, we learned the Congressman financed his yacht with a loan from a foreign bank lobbying on the tax bill," Shapiro said in a statement. "It's time Vern Buchanan answer the question once and for all: is he representing Florida families in Washington, or his special interests?"

According to FCIR, Buchanan borrowed as much as $5 million from BMO Harris to buy the yacht while he sat on the House Ways and Means Committee. That committee is the one that initially crafted the 2017 tax bill — on which BMO Harris heavily lobbied Congress, according to the investigative news outlet. The bank benefitted tremendously from the legislation, which slashed corporate tax rates.

Buchanan, one of the wealthiest congressmen in Washington and the chair of Ways and Means' tax policy subcommittee, also got a huge personal windfall from the bill's tax cuts.

Max Goodman, a Buchanan spokesman, noted the report alleged no legal impropriety on the part of the Congressman. He also called the investigative reporting partnership a "left-wing partisan front group funded by George Soros."

FCIR has not received any money from Soros, the liberal billionaire mega donor or his foundations according to its tax returns. MapLight did include the Soros-funded Open Society Foundation in its list of donors, but its record show that Open Society was just one of several dozen groups that supported its journalism.

"Instead of challenging the facts of the story, which they do not, Buchanan's people are peddling the conspiracy theory that George Soros controls the media," FCIR Executive Director Trevor Aaronson said.

The yacht had previously come up as an issue in Buchanan's re-election campaign when it was revealed the congressman purchased it the same day he voted for the tax bill.

Earlier this month, a liberal dark money group bought hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising offering a $500 reward for a picture of the boat, Entrepreneur.

Previous coverage: WANTED: A photo of this GOP congressman's yacht (REWARD: $500)

Read the full FCIR story here.