Tuesday, September 25, 2012

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."


  1. The reporting, and I use that term loosely, is sad. Instead of reporting on the candidates the report is on the adv.
    This has come to be true of most papers. The focus is on the adv and never on the the qualifications of the candidate nor his/her positions. The electorate never gets any more insight than what is trashed in the sdv.

  2. Sad that Fitzgerald's first ad is negative, after two positive ads from Buchanan. You know what they say in campaigns - the first one to go negative is desperate. Seems right. Also - is Fitz saying he never took PAC money? Because that doesn't sound right...

  3. I am a registered Democrat but this negative ad alone will make me vote for Mr. Buchanan. So Keith---you kicked me off your team with this ad.

  4. Seems like a straight up lie to Suncoast voters...Does Fitz think we are not smart enough to realize Vern was cleared. Even being down 20 points this is outrageous, desperate and misleading....isn't that what they said about Paul Ryan's RNC speech....I guess the old saying applies if you can't beat them join em.

  5. There are still outstanding IRS QuiTam investigations with case numbers against Buchanan and others. There are still outstanding civil lawsuits by former partners and employees. One issue is a comtempt of court.

    The question of his guilt and character is still open.

    Beyond that ia Buchanan's willingness to use a charity (Habitat for Humanity) to cover personal financial loses. Loses Buchanan could better afford to lose rather than a public charity. Especially when Buchanan former campaign manager is on Habitat board.

    If Buchanan is such a great businessman then why the losses in his previous printing company, why the loss of so many auto dealerships. Then there are the losses related to his land deals. Where is the great businessman.

    Or is he a master of switch and bait.

    Which pea is the shell under. Or is it which shell is the pea under.

    A con is a con is a con. Buchanan seems to have the voters in Florida convinced it is all ok. But, is that all part of the con.

  6. Is everyone else ignoring the part where Fitzgerald calls for an end to PAC donations, but has accepted thousands of dollars in PAC money? That's what we call a hypocrite.