Campaign 2010

Sep 06, 2006

Vern Buchanan:  Now that the Primary is Over, Will You Release Your Shady Court Records?

DCCC Press

Sep 6, 2006

Vern Buchanan: Now that the Primary is Over, Will You Release Your Shady Court Records?

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Today, as Florida families are introduced to Vern Buchanan, the Republican nominee to replace Katherine Harris in Congress, they want to know if Buchanan will release court documents regarding his questionable business practices. Even though Buchanan says he has nothing to hide, Buchanan’s attorneys have blocked the release of court documents in which businessmen allege that Buchanan defrauded them and lied about his finances. Furthermore, Buchanan later struck a settlement with the businessmen through a convoluted real estate transaction that ended up saving him about $200,000 in taxes.

“If Vern Buchanan has nothing to hide as he claims, he should come forward immediately and disclose the details of his shady lawsuit, including why he received an unusual $200,000 tax benefit,” said Bill Burton, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “At a time when Florida families are looking for new leadership and a new direction, it is clear Vern Buchanan represents more of the same, corrupt, special interest-driven values Florida families are sick and tired of.”

Buchanan recently told the Sarasota Herald Tribune he isn’t concerned about the information in the case records because he doesn’t have “anything to hide.” He also said he would seriously consider unsealing the case after the primary. [Herald-Tribune, 8/13/06; 8/31/06]

Now that the primary is over, Vern Buchanan should answer the following questions:

1. If you have nothing to hide as you claim, will you come forward and release your court documents now that the primary is over?

2. Your settlement involved a convoluted real estate deal allowing you to pay capital gains taxes rather than income taxes on $1.35 million, saving you about $200,000. Why did you receive a tax benefit in the settlement of the lawsuit? Did you make some sort of backroom deal with the developer?

Headline:“Suit sealed until election.” The media and the public have the right to intervene to determine whether a lawsuit involving Republican Congressional candidate Vern Buchanan was justifiably sealed from public view in 2001, a circuit judge in Sarasota ruled Friday. Circuit Judge Nancy Donnellan said the suit was sealed at the time by the agreement of the parties involved. The media, represented by attorney Carol Jean LoCicero, argued that was not valid enough reason to warrant the sealing of the case. LoCicero argued that the case was improperly sealed from the start, and that Buchanan’s decision to run for Congress made him a public figure, essentially providing more reason to open the case to public view… The decision essentially means that the court documents will not be released before Tuesday’s primary election. [Bradenton Herald, 9/2/06]

Headline: “Judge won’t unseal Buchanan lawsuit.” A judge decided Friday not to immediately unseal a lawsuit involving congressional candidate Vern Buchanan, virtually guaranteeing the case will remain secret until after Tuesday’s primary… Still, Donnellan ruled Friday during an emergency hearing sought by the Herald-Tribune that the newspaper had not proved the sealing was improper and would have to present evidence at a later hearing. Herald-Tribune Executive Editor Mike Connelly said the newspaper is considering its legal options. The sealed court file involves a lawsuit Buchanan filed against the Ritz-Carlton developers, claiming they unfairly cut him out of a deal to finance the luxury tower. In one case document obtained before the case was sealed, the Ritz’s developer asserted that Buchanan defrauded them and lied about his finances… [Herald Tribune, 9/2/06]

  • Settlement Involved Beneficial Tax Deal. Whatever may be in the sealed file, there were indications Friday that Buchanan came out the winner in his lawsuit. Buchanan confirmed Friday that the developers agreed to pay him $1.35 million as part of their settlement agreement. The Herald-Tribune was able to determine the amount because Buchanan accepted payment through a convoluted real estate transaction for a condo at the Ritz-Carlton. The deal allowed Buchanan to pay capital gains rather than income taxes on the $1.35 million, thereby saving about $200,000. “Obviously, there was a tax benefit,” he said. “But we did it because we wanted to use it for the community.” Buchanan said that during the year he owned the penthouse, he and his two partners, Lem Sharp and Robert Nelson, used the condo for more than 100 charity events. [Herald Tribune, 9/2/06]
  • Buchanan: “Nothing to Hide.” Buchanan said that he isn’t concerned about the information in the case records because he doesn’t “have anything to hide.” But unlike the developer, Buchanan and his attorney refused to immediately authorize the unsealing of the case. Buchanan said that the case was a business deal that went bad, and he never asked for the case to be sealed. He said he would seriously consider unsealing the case after the primary. [Herald Tribune, 8/13/06; 8/31/06]
  • Buchanan the Only Party to Oppose Unsealing the Case. Buchanan’s attorney said his client has nothing to hide, and said Buchanan wanted to protect the privacy of unnamed individuals involved in the suit. Buchanan has been the only party to oppose unsealing the case. Unlike Buchanan, Ritz developer Kevin Daves and Buford have not objected to unsealing the file. Herald-Tribune attorney Gregg Thomas said Buchanan’s attorney offered Wednesday to give the case file to the Herald-Tribune the day after the primary in exchange for dropping the request for Friday’s hearing. The Herald-Tribune declined the offer. [Herald Tribune, 9/2/06]