Washington, D.C. --The US House of Representatives Ethics Committee handed Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan a major victory when they cleared him of ethics violations.
The three-term Congressmanwas being investigated for allegations that he withheld information on his financial disclosure forms. On Tuesday hewon a 9 - 0 vote by the committee to dismiss the charges.
That doesn't mean the Sarasota Republican made complete financial disclosures when he initially filed his reports. The committee determined that Buchanan did not accurately report all of the positions or ownership interests he held with several entities on his Financial Disclosure Statements for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
The ethics committee also says he did not accurately report certain income received from those same entities in the same years. However, the committee found no evidence that he knew about the errors, and no that it was no different from hundreds of errors that are corrected every year. The report states in part:
In fact, between 30% and 50% of all Financial Disclosure Statements reviewed by the Committee each year contain errors or omissions. Such errors and omissions are not uncommon and are typically corrected through amendments to Financial Disclosure Statements, and do not involve any further Committee action.
The nonprofit legal watch dog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics says "it is unfathomable how the ethics committee could punt on Buchanan, a repeat offender." It adds, " in clearing Buchanan once again, the Ethics Committee covers up for an unethical member of Congress and the public loses out."
While there is no doubt this decision gives Buchanan a reason to celebrate, the Congressman --who is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Keith Fitzgerald -- is still facing investigations by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Until and unless he is cleared in those investigations, Buchanan will continue to hold his breath and hope for the best.