Friday, September 28, 2012

Tampa developer pleads guilty to making illegal contributions to Vern Buchanan (UPDATED)

A financial supporter of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is again in trouble for making illegal financial contributions to the congressman's campaign.

Buchanan's campaign Friday afternoon said it would be returning $84,000 in tainted donations.

“We will be giving the funds to the Treasury, similar to what Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid did under the same circumstances," said Max Goodman, a spokesman for Buchanan's campaign.
Timothy Mobley, a Tampa real estate developer, on Thursday pleaded guilty to illegally reimbursing employees for donations made to Buchanan's congressional campaigns. His accountant, Timothy Hohl, pleaded guilty to three counts of aiding the scheme.

In pleading guilty in a Jacksonville court to one count each of making illegal conduit and illegal corporate contributions, Mobley admitted that from March 2006 through October 2008, "he made contributions to the campaign of an individual referred to in court documents as 'Federal Elected Official A," a Justice Department news release states.

A review of Federal Elections Commission records shows that during the time in question, the only candidate Mobley contributed money to was Buchanan.

The amount of the reimbursements for donations to Buchanan totaled $84,300, according to the Justice Department. Mobley also improperly reimbursed employees for $10,000 in donations to the Republican Party of Florida.

Pleading guilty to three counts of aiding and abetting the illegal contributions was Mobley's accountant Timothy Hohl.

Buchanan's attorney Robert Luskin said the congressman and his campaign were not aware of the illegal donations.

“The announcement earlier this month that the Justice Department has cleared Congressman Buchanan of any wrongdoing proves conclusively that Congressman Buchanan and his campaign were totally unaware of any unlawful contributions and had no knowledge of -- or involvement in -- these activities,” Luskin said in a statement issued by Buchanan's campaign. “This situation is no different from the recent DOJ cases against donors who unlawfully raised money for Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid, all three of whom were similarly cleared of any knowledge or involvement in those matters."

The case was prosecuted by lawyers in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, the same office that notified Buchanan earlier this month that it was no longer investigating him. FBI offices in Tampa and Jacksonville also participated in the investigation.

Allegations of illegal reimbursements for donations to Buchanan -- and in at least once instance, that Buchanan orchestrated the scheme -- have been at the root of several investigations of Buchanan's political and business practices.

During a FEC investigation, government lawyers initially said there was probable cause to believe allegations that Buchanan had instructed a former business partner, Sam Kazran, to reimburse employees of a car dealership they co-owned in Jacksonville. But like the Justice Department did later, the FEC closed its probe without taking action against Buchanan -- but fined Kazran and the dealership $67,900 each for the illegal donations.

The House Ethics Committee is currently reviewing allegations that Buchanan tried to improperly influence Kazran's testimony in the case.

As it has throughout the current campaign, Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald said the Mobley case shows again that Buchanan is too corrupt for Congress.

"The scandals with Congressman Buchanan continue. Seemingly each week, we hear something new about his legacy of corruption," Ana Maria Rosato, communications director for Fitzgerald campaign, said in a news release. "For once, Mr. Buchanan needs tell the truth to his constituents about the numerous investigations that he has been and continues to be under. At a time when the middle class needs a full-time champion fighting for them every day, Congressman Buchanan is continually consumed with his ongoing legal battles and personal self interest."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Buchanan to return the tainted donations.

“Now that two fundraisers for Congressman Vern Buchanan’s campaign are guilty of an illegal campaign finance scheme involving Congressman Vern Buchanan’s campaign, will Congressman Buchanan return this tainted campaign cash?” DCCC spokeswoman Stephanie Formas said in a news release. “First, the Federal Election Commission found that Congressman Buchannan ‘more likely than not’ violated federal law for an illegal campaign finance scheme involving his car dealerships and now we find out that a long time friend of Congressman Buchanan was convicted of a similar scandal. Suncoast families are tired of turning on the television to find Congressman Buchanan who has spent his time in Congress building a record of scandal.”

The Florida Democratic Party called on the Florida GOP to refund the donations it received, and joined in on the political attack on Buchanan.

"Given Vern Buchanan’s sordid history, these developments aren't surprising, but they are concerning," said party spokesman David Bergstein. "He’s clearly shown, yet again, he’s more focused on defending his own political career than looking out for middle class families of Sarasota and Bradenton.”

"It’s certainly a shake-up in this race.”

Mobley faces up to 10 years in prison and fines totaling $882,000. Hohl faces up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to the Justice Department.

National Democrats cut ad spending on behalf of Keith Fitzgerald

Politico and Roll Call reported this week that as part of a strategic shifts in its efforts to win majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is reducing what it planned to spend in support of Keith Fitzgerald's campaign to unseat Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Roll Call put a dollar figure of almost $230,000 on the ads that now will not air in the 16th Congressional District race.

Earlier, the DCCC had named Fitzgerald as part of its "red-to-blue" campaign, promising financial and other support.

Politico reports:
Searching for a path to the House majority, Democrats are shuffling a series of TV ad buys in districts across the country, scaling back in races that are increasingly seen as long shots while adding investments in others. 
 In a series of strategic decisions Wednesday afternoon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reduced commercial buys in four, Republican-friendly districts, each of which are seen as uphill for the party, sources told POLITICO. The shifts are the broadest since the DCCC began its advertising campaign last month. 
The House Democratic campaign arm has reduced its investments against GOP Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia and GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, who earlier this year was cleared in an ethics committee investigation of his finances. The DCCC also scaled back on purchases in Indiana’s 2nd District and North Dakota’s At-Large seat, both of which are vacant. 
In each case, the trim in TV air time was for one week.

Vern Buchanan responds with negative ad on Keith Fitzgerald

Keith Fitzgerald earlier this week released an ad attacking Rep. Vern Buchanan for being under "federal investigation" -- which is not entirely true.

In response, Buchanan launched his own air attack on Fitzgerald's ethics and record as a Florida state representative, with a new ad soon to hit your TVs.

Here is a Buchanan news release on the ad:

Congressman Vern Buchanan today launched a new TV ad in Tampa and Sarasota markets that blasts Keith Fitzgerald's false and dishonest attacks and exposes an ethics complaint accusing Fitzgerald of failing to disclose his conflict of interest as a state legislator.

The ad, entitled "Serving Himself" opens with an announcer informing viewers that Fitzgerald is falsely attacking Buchanan to hide his own ethical lapses while he was a member of the state Legislature.  Fitzgerald faces an ethics complaint for failing to disclose, as required by state law, his conflict of interest in voting on millions of dollars for his employer, the New College of Florida.  Fitzgerald is a professor at the college who has been granted lifetime tenure. 
Section 3.2 of Florida House Ethics Laws requires legislators to disclose their conflict of interest in voting on "any measure that the member knows or believes would inure to the special private gain or loss of:  any principal by whom the member or the member's spouse, parent, or child is retained or employed." 
In Fitzgerald's case, he voted on six separate budgets as a state legislator that appropriated millions of taxpayer funds to his employer, New College of Florida.  In all cases, Fitzgerald failed to disclose his conflict of interest within the mandatory 15-day reporting period. 
Fitzgerald's behavior also prompted a sharp rebuke from FL Sen. John Thrasher -- the author of legislation banning university employees from serving in the state legislature:  "It isn't rocket science," said Thrasher.  "Citizens expect better from elected officials and it is disappointing that we find ourselves having to address this problem with individuals running for public office."
The Buchanan ad is in direct response to a Fitzgerald commercial that maligned the congressman and falsely claimed Buchanan is under federal investigation.  Buchanan's two previous ads were entirely about the congressman's jobs agenda and vision for the future.

"It doesn't matter whether Vern is up by 20 points in the polls or more, Fitzgerald will be held accountable to the truth and his attacks will not go unanswered," said campaign spokesman Max Goodman.  "Just because Fitzgerald is desperate and trailing doesn't give him the right to smear Vern with patently dishonest attacks."  
National Democrats have reportedly cancelled $230,000 in TV ads against Rep. Vern Buchanan, shifting the money away from "long shots" to "more promising targets."  The move comes after Buchanan was cleared by the Justice Department of false accusations and after prominent pundit Larry Sabato downgraded the Democrats' chances of beating Buchanan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sandra Fluke, target of Rush Limbaugh attack, to campaign with Keith Fitzgerald

Sandra Fluke, who was harshly criticized by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for her support of requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of birth control, will be in Lakewood Ranch on Saturday to endorse Keith Fitzgerald's run for Congress.

A news conference and rally are set for 5 to 6 p.m. at the Polo Grill and Bar ballroom, 10670 Boardwalk Loop. Also scheduled to speak is Barbara A. Zdravecky, president/CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

Limbaugh called Fluke, a Georgetown University law graduate, a "slut" and a "prostitute" for stating before Congress that insurance companies should be forced to cover the cost of birth control.

"Sandra Fluke will endorse Keith Fitzgerald's candidacy and talk about the importance of women's support to his campaign," a news release from Fitzgerald's campaign states. "She, Keith and Barbara Zdravecky will emphasize the critical issue of women's access to health care in this election and why women are supporting Keith Fitzgerald for Congress." Fitzgerald is running to unseat Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in the 16th Congressional District.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Social media reaction to new Buchanan, Fitzgerald ads

Keith Fitzgerald's 1st TV ad slams Vern Buchanan on ethics; congressman calls ad 'false and outrageous' (UPDATED x 5)

See below for updates.

Democratic congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald on Tuesday launched his first television ad of his campaign to unseat Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

The ad, entitled "Price," is designed to show "the clear contrast between Keith Fitzgerald, a proven reformer and leader in curtailing special interests while in the Florida legislature, and Congressman Vern Buchanan, the most ethically challenged member of Congress," a Fitzgerald campaign news release states.

More specifically, the ad, which is narrated by Fitzgerald, attempts to link damage to Buchanan's reputation as a result of numerous investigations of his political and business practices -- most of which have been closed with no action taken against the congressman --  to challenges facing the middle class in America. The ad includes news footage on the investigations.

The ad also includes two specific policy proposals from Fitzgerald: A ban on unlimited corporate spending on elections; and "if anyone in Congress abuses their power to enrich themselves, it ought to be punishable by prison."

Watch the ad here:

Updated, 9:11 a.m. EDT -- A Buchanan campaign spokesman Tuesday morning decried the ad as "false and outrageous."

Buchanan's lawyers earlier this month said a senior Justice Department official had informed them that DOJ and other federal agencies had closed their investigations of the congressman with no case being filed against him.

Fitzgerald "knows full well that Buchanan is not under federal investigation," said Max Goodman, a spokesman for Buchanan. "It just shows how desperate he is."

The House Ethics Committee continues to review allegations that Buchanan improperly tried to influence the testimony of former business partner Sam Kazran in an earlier Federal Elections Commission investigation by promising to settle a $2.9 million lawsuit he had filed against Kazran.

The FEC took no action against Buchanan after investigating charges that he, along with Kazran, had orchestrated a scheme to illegally reimburse employees of their car dealership for contributions made to Buchanan's campaign.

Updated, 3:08 p.m. -- In response to questions about the accuracy of the ad -- specifically, claims that Buchanan remains "under investigation" despite the Justice Department notification -- Fitzgerald's campaign manager Adam Scott noted that the House Ethics Committee is part of Congress, which is a branch of the federal government. He also cited a television report that coincided with the Justice Department notification that the Internal Revenue Service was continuing to investigate Buchanan.

"It's clear he was under investigation by the FBI, Department of Justice and a federal grand jury, and he remains under investigation by the House Ethics Committee and the IRS," Scott said.

The IRS does not comment on pending or other investigations that end with no action taken against a taxpayer.

Scott said reaction to the ad has been positive, and that it is not surprising that Buchanan's campaign would question its accuracy. Buchanan, said Scott, is just trying to run away from his legal and legislative record as a congressman.

"When presented with his record in a factual way, he is trying to divert attention from it," Scott said.

In a further critique of the Fitzgerald ad, the Buchanan campaign Tuesday afternoon issued a press release, entitled "Keith Fitzgerald: Hypocrisy 101", in which it noted at at the same time Fitzgerald is denouncing political action committees, he has accepted thousands of dollars in donations from PACs. The release also repeats earlier charges that the ad is "misleading"; and that Fitzgerald had a conflict of interest when he tried to win funding for his employer, New College of Florida, while a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

Updated, 3:55 p.m. -- In response to Scott's response, Buchanan spokesman Max Goodman reiterated that it is "categorically false" that Buchanan is under "federal investigation."

And, Goodman said, it is "100 percent not true" that the IRS is investigating Buchanan. Any IRS probe that might have occurred ended with the Justice Department deciding not to purse further investigation of the congressman.

"Vern is not being investigated by the IRS," Goodman said.

Updated, 4:20 p.m. -- In response to Buchanan's denials that he remains under investigation, the Fitzgerald campaign just issued this press release:
Despite facing a serious House Ethics investigation into federal bribery charges, Congressman Vern Buchanan falsely claimed today that he has been exonerated from all federal investigations. In reality, the bipartisan House Ethics Committee, chaired by Republican Congressman Jo Bonner (AL-01), announced in May that it was continuing to investigate Congressman Vern Buchanan for attempting to influence a witness in a federal investigation into his campaign finances. Furthermore, WTSP reported that Buchanan is still under investigation by the IRS. 
“The facts are quite clear. Congressman Buchanan currently faces a federal investigation for federal bribery, obstruction and witness tampering laws by the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee,” said Adam Scott, Keith Fitzgerald's campaign manager. “As someone who has built a record of scandal, Suncoast families have come to expect that anything that Congressman Buchanan says cannot be trusted.” 
Congressman Vern Buchanan also attempted to claim “exoneration” in a federal probe, but the investigation found that Congressman Buchanan “more likely than not” violated federal election laws, and the FEC questioned his credibility. In addition, Congressman Buchanan skipped his own deposition but is now scheduled to testify under oath next on October 4th and 5th.
Updated, 5:13 p.m. -- The Buchanan campaign responds.

"Lets face it, Fitzgerald lost all credibility when he falsely attacked Vern and Habitat for Humanity...and now he's lying about Vern facing federal investigation," spokesman Max Goodman said in a statement after the above Fitzgerald statement. " His ad specifically distinguishes between congressional and federal investigations. The facts are indisputable. Vern is NOT under federal investigation."

Updated, 5:25 p.m. -- Backing up the Buchanan response about the IRS claim is the following statement from William McGinley, a Washington attorney who has represented Buchanan during the various federal government investigations of the congressman:
"There was never anything but malicious speculation to support the claim that Congressman Buchanan was the subject of a criminal tax investigation. What is beyond dispute is that the Justice Department's announcement two weeks ago that it has closed all aspects of its investigation resolves the question categorically: There is no criminal IRS investigation of Vern Buchanan."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Keith Fitzgerald calls for 'common sense' budget, tax reforms

Democratic congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald on Monday released what he said is a "common sense" plan to address the nation's fiscal challenges that includes both proposed spending cuts and reform of the tax code.

“All too often, Washington avoids the tough decisions and is too busy serving special interests and themselves," Fitzgerald said in a news release. "We must have leaders who are willing to work across party lines to stop the waste, special interest manipulation of the tax code, and actually reign in out of control spending in Washington."

Specifically, Fitzgerald is calling for:
  • Overhauling the congressional budget process to hold members of Congress more accountable for meeting spending targets.
  • Tax simplification and other reforms "because regular hardworking Americans don’t have the luxury or resources to hire insiders and lobbyists with access to Congress." Specific ways to do this, according to Fitzgerald, include eliminating tax deductions and other loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas and the "ultra-wealthy."
  • "Eliminating government waste, fraud and abuse" -- a frequent political mantra -- in Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. Fitzgerald also is calling for banning congressional earmarks, or "pork;" eliminating duplicative programs; and reducing the size of the federal vehicle fleet by 20 percent.
  • A limited line item veto that would allow Congress to vote up or down on the president's proposed cuts to a spending bill. (Currently, the president can only veto an entire bill.)
"There are some simple bi-partisan steps that Washington can take right now to begin address our federal spending and growing national debt including reforming and simplifying our tax code and cracking down on government fraud in programs like Medicare and Medicaid,” Fitzgerald said.

Read Fitzgerald's plan here.

Fitzgerald faces Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan in the Nov. 6 general election for the 16th District seat in the House of Representatives.

New campaign TV ad touts Buchanan's 'blue collar background'

One of the wealthiest members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Tuesday will begin running a television campaign commercial that touts his "blue collar background" and "can-do spirit" make him well suited to stand up for the American middle class, according to his campaign.

In the ad, the narrator does not get more specific than to say that in Congress, Buchanan "fights for lower taxes, a balanced budget, and incentives for small businesses to create good-paying jobs."

In a news release, Buchanan campaign manager Sally Tibbetts said the ad highlights Buchanan's background as a businessman and a "problem solver."

"Vern is fighting to change Washington's broken system, not play petty partisan games like so many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle," Tibbetts said. "He's interested in results -- paying down the debt, creating jobs, restoring America's prosperity.''

The ad, the second spot Buchanan has produced for his campaign, is set to air on local over-the-air and cable channels, according to the campaign.

Buchanan's Democratic challenger, Keith Fitzgerald, has yet to release a television ad.

Here is the new Buchanan ad:

And here is a link to his first ad.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mitt Romney at the Ringling in Sarasota

Mitt Romney stumps in Sarasota

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Keith Fitzgerald's sister endorses Vern Buchanan for Congress

Linda Fitzgerald Huber and Rep. Vern Buchanan

You can pick your politics but as Keith Fitzgerald well knows, you can't pick your family, even when your politics disagree.

The Vern Buchanan campaign Wednesday took a familial swipe at Fitzgerald, touting an endorsement and subsequent cash contribution from Linda Fitzgerald Huber, sister of the Democratic nominee in the race for the 16th District seat in the U.S. House.

“Vern’s background as a businessman is exactly what we need in Congress,” Huber said in a statement Wednesday released by the Buchanan campaign. “I support his agenda to grow the economy and create jobs while protecting Medicare."

With that quote, Huber responded almost point-by-point to some of the major arguments her brother has made about Buchanan during the campaign.

The news release included the above photo of Buchanan with his arm around Huber, taken during the Republican National Convention last month in Tampa.

Huber, however, won't be able to vote for Buchanan. She lives in Kentucky.

Fitzgerald, who graduated from the University of Louisville, sucked it up and took it like an ever-loyal family member.

"Though I've never loved her politics, I love my sister," Fitzgerald said in a statement released by his campaign.

The Buchanan camp said Huber reached out last month and offered the endorsement.

"We're honored to have her support," said campaign spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fitzgerald chides Buchanan for declining debate invite (UPDATED x 2)

The debate about debates, such as it is, is continuing between congressional candidates Keith Fitzgerald and Vern Buchanan.

Democratic challenger Fitzgerald on Tuesday chided Republican incumbent Buchanan for turning down an invitation for a joint appearance at a lunchtime meeting of the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club on Oct. 18.

Kim Noyes, executive director of Tiger Bay, said Buchanan had a scheduling conflict with another planned forum, a televised debate co-sponsored by the Bradenton Herald, which is set for 11 a.m. the same day. Noyes said there isn't time before the Nov. 6 election to reschedule.

Fitzgerald's campaign manager Adam Scott said Tuesday afternoon that Fitzgerald would be at the Herald debate.

In a statement, Fitzgerald's campaign manager said Buchanan's decision to not appear before the Tiger Bay Club comes after he didn't respond to Fitzgerald's call for three issue-specific debates on Medicare, ethics reform and job creation.

"This is what you would expect from a vulnerable incumbent," said Adam Scott, repeating what has become a familiar litany from the Fitzgerald camp during the campaign.

"After voting twice to put Medicare in a voucher-like program, manipulating the tax code to benefit corporate special interests and the ultra-wealthy, co-sponsoring legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape under federal law, skipping a court ordered deposition, refusing to release his taxes, and being the subject of numerous lawsuits and investigations, it is no wonder that Congressman Buchanan would avoid debating a candidate that has a track record of reforming government and fighting for the middle class, like Keith Fitzgerald," Scott said.

In response, Buchanan's campaign repeated what it has been saying, as well:

"We have agrees to two debates. One in Bradenton and one in Sarasota. Both will be broadcast district wide and posted online. We hope Keith accepts so the voters can contrast Vern's positive agenda to grow the economy and strengthen Medicare with Keith's support of Nancy Pelosi's agenda that raided Medicare to pay for Obamacare, raised taxes and wasted $700 billion on a failed stimulus."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vern Buchanan, Keith Fitzgerald are debating about debates

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Wednesday agreed to participate in two televised debates with Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald -- on the same day Fitzgerald challenged Buchanan to three debates on Medicare, ethics reform and job creation.

Buchanan said he agreed to participate in an Oct. 18 debate co-sponsored by the Bradenton Herald, METV, Bay News 9 and the League of Women Voters that will be posted on and on METV's YouTube channel; and an Oct. 28 debate to be televised by WWSB-Channel 7.

The election is Nov. 6.

"We encourage everyone to tune in and learn the enormous difference between Vern's positive agenda to create jobs and Keith Fitzgerald's support for the failed policies of (House Democratic Leader) Nancy Pelosi," Sally Tibbetts, spokeswoman for Buchanan, said in a news release announcing his agreeing to two debates.

Buchanan's campaign issued the release Wednesday afternoon, about 20 minutes after a release from Fitzgerald's campaign in which he called for three televised, topic-specific debates.

When asked about Buchanan's announcement, Adam Scott, campaign manager for Fitzgerald, said in an e-mail to the Bradenton Herald he was not aware that Buchanan had agreed to the debates.

Scott said Fitzgerald and Buchanan have yet to appear side by side at event during the campaign.

Like Tibbetts, Fitzgerald used his debate challenge to highlight what he says are the differences between him and Buchanan.

"Our community needs a representative that is going to focus on creating jobs and protecting Medicare," Fitzgerald said in the statement. "After voting twice to end Medicare as we know it and replace it with vouchers, Congressman Buchanan owes it to the voters of the district to explain why seniors should be paying more out of pocket for Medicare.

Fitzgerald said "protecting the Medicare guarantee" has been a focal point of his campaign.

Another centerpiece has been the numerous federal investigations of Buchanan's campaign and business practices.

"And after years of dodging numerous lawsuits, multiple federal investigations, refusing to release his taxes, skipping a court deposition ...  it is high time he comes clean and explains why he still deserves the privilege of representing us in Congress," Fitzgerald said.

The House Ethics Committee and the U.S. Justice Department have closed separate investigations of Buchanan's campaign financing and other practices without taking action against him. Another Ethics Committee investigation remains pending.

Fitzgerald has posted on his website his income tax returns, while Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has ignored Fitzgerald's demand that he do the same.

Vern Buchanan condemns killing of U.S. ambassador in Libya

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, is joining the chorus of  condemnations of the killing of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, issuing this statement:
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Ambassador Stevens and the three other Americans killed in the attacks. The service of Ambassador Stevens and his staff will not be forgotten and his commitment to the spread of democracy in a troubled part of the world is worthy of great praise and commendation. 
“This senseless act of violence is unacceptable, and I find it deplorable that American citizens serving their country abroad were murdered at the hands of a people we helped fight for democracy and freedom less than a year ago. 
“The United States and our diplomatic corps champion freedom, liberty, and democracy around the globe. We will continue to provide strong leadership and stand resolute in the face of adversity,” stated Buchanan.

Sen. Bill Nelson responds to death of U.S. ambassador in Libya

Just in:
“I am shocked and saddened by the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other fellow citizens. And I share the grief of their families and colleagues. 
“These murders have the markings of revenge by al Qaeda for the death of the number two leader of the terrorist group, Abu Yahya al-Libi. The Associated Press has reported that the killing in June of al-Libi was the biggest setback to al Qaeda since the death of Osama Bin Laden.

“In light of Monday night’s Internet-video statement by the head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who urged Libyans to attack Americans to avenge the recent death of al-Libi, I am asking my colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee to immediately investigate what role al Qaeda or its affiliates may have played in the attacks in Libya and Egypt, and to urge appropriate action.

“For the safety of the remaining Americans, we need to secure our embassies in North Africa and around the world – and to stop terrorist-inspired mobs from doing evil deeds.

“We also need to quickly find and bring to justice those who committed these heinous acts.
“Again, all our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have fallen and those who are still serving on the front lines.”

Justice Department decision is a big legal victory for Vern Buchanan

For those keeping score -- and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan surely hopes you are --  Buchanan has perhaps a decisive advantage as he defends himself against allegations of wrongdoing in his political and business practices.

Already, the Federal Elections Commission, without taking action against Buchanan, ended its investigation of whether Buchanan orchestrated an illegal scheme for a car dealership he once co-owned to illegally reimburse employees for contributions they made to his congressional campaign.

And the House Ethics Committee absolved Buchanan after he corrected financial disclosure forms that omitted some of his holdings and income. (A second Ethics Committee investigation of whether Buchanan improperly tried to influence the testimony of former business partner Sam Kazran in the FEC case remains pending.)

The biggest win for Buchanan so far came Tuesday, when the U.S. Justice Department informed him that it had ended its investigation of the congressman. What exactly Justice's public integrity unit was investigating wasn't revealed, but a lawyer for Buchanan said he presumed it was a "grab bag of allegations" arising from the campaign finance investigation. Regardless, no charges will be filed and the case is closed.

Throughout the various investigations -- especially the FEC case, during which government lawyers reported they believed there was probable cause to pursue a case against Buchanan -- there have been revelations that at the very least, have provided fodder for Buchanan's opponents, namely Democratic nominee Keith Fitzgerald who has used them to fuel his campaign to unseat the three-term congressman in the Nov. 6 election.

In the wake of the Justice Department decision, Buchanan's campaign jabbed back at its political opponents.

"Today's decision by the Justice Department should put an end to partisan efforts to capitalize on this investigation," Buchanan's campaign said in a news release.

However, Fitzgerald's campaign manager said the latest development -- or depending on your perspective, the continuing unraveling of efforts to brand Buchanan as a crook -- does absolve the congressman of further scrutiny.

"The Suncoast deserves better representation than a congressman that the best that can be said about him is that the Justice Department 'will not bring any criminal charges,'" said Adam Scott in a statement.

Scott's conclusion highlights the fact that even though Buchanan may legally be in the clear, left unresolved is what all the allegations and investigations will mean for his political future.

That won't be known until Nov. 6.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio responds to embassy attacks in Libya, Egypt

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of both the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees in the U.S. Senate, on Wednesday issued a statement in response to attacks on U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt. The Libyan attack killed the U.S. ambassador and three other American diplomats:
“I am deeply saddened and troubled by the mob attacks in Libya that led to the murder of our ambassador and three members of his staff. I had the chance of meeting Ambassador Chris Stevens during his confirmation process and again when I visited Libya last year. He was an exemplary diplomat and his embassy staff could not have been more helpful and knowledgeable during my visit. My prayers are with the families and loved ones of these courageous diplomats who were working to help the Libyan people rise from the ashes of Gaddafi’s rule. 
“It is imperative that these senseless mob attacks be condemned by the Libyan government and that it commit to stop this violence and bring those responsible for the deaths of our American diplomats to justice. In both Libya and Egypt, their governments have an obligation to resolutely condemn these violent attacks and protect American diplomatic missions and personnel based on their soil. 
“The Libyan and Egyptian people should understand that the U.S. shares their commitment to building more hopeful and prosperous nations. However, if left unchecked, violent attacks like these against our embassies and diplomats will lead Libya and Egypt down a dark path and rob them of their hopes of a more prosperous and democratic future. The broader publics in Libya and Egypt should condemn the violence and distance themselves from the unruly and intolerant elements of their society that threaten the security and future of their nations.”