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.
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