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Republican chairman has ‘confidence’ in Vern Buchanan, despite ethics investigations

Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, says he has “confidence” in Committee Finance Chairman Vern Buchanan, despite a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation and an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into the Sarasota congressman over an alleged campaign finance scheme to reimburse employees who contributed to his campaign.

In a Bloomberg television interview, Sessions, R-Texas, told Al Hunt that Buchanan “has been forthright and brought the information to the committee and to the Department of Justice himself,” and that he has “confidence” in him despite the ongoing investigations.

In December 2010, the Federal Election Commission filed suit against Buchanan’s former car dealership and a former business partner for allegedly reimbursing employees who donated to the congressman’s 2006 and 2008 campaigns with car dealership funds.

Though the FEC didn’t file suit against Buchanan himself, the allegations are now the subject of an investigation by both the Department of Justice and the Office of Congressional Ethics. In July, The Florida Independent published a lengthy sworn deposition given by Buchanan’s former business partner (in which he says Buchanan orchestrated the campaign reimbursements); in September, we posted two voicemails left by Buchanan that reference the scheme.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee criticized Sessions’ comments in a press release sent, arguing that his defense of Buchanan comes despite Republican Leader Eric Cantor pledging to enforce a “zero tolerance policy” on ethics violations.

“When your Finance Chairman is under criminal investigation for campaign finance schemes, every dollar you raise is suspect,” said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Jesse Ferguson. “NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions and Republican leadership standing by Congressman Vern Buchanan is only the latest exception in their ‘zero tolerance’ policy for ethics.”

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