WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee reported Tuesday that Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., omitted information on his financial disclosure forms over four years, but the panel took no action because the errors were corrected.
The committee did not announce its vote, but Buchanan's office said it was 9-0 to end the case.
The committee said less substantial errors and omissions occur in 30 percent to 50 percent of all financial disclosure statements reviewed each year. No action is typically taken unless there is evidence that errors or omissions were knowing or willful, or related to other violations.
In more than 95 percent of the cases, the committee said, the lawmakers appeared to be unaware of the mistakes until they were notified by the ethics committee, watchdog groups or the media.
In his disclosure statements for 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, Buchanan did not report all of his positions or ownership interests in six entities and income received from the entities, according to an earlier report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.
They are: Boca Creek Development Co., LLC; Bowling Green Dealership, LLC; Country Club Shores LLC; its companion entity Country Club Shores II LLC; Regent Court Association Inc. and the Vernon G. and Sandra J.C. Buchanan Family Foundation Inc.
The disclosure case isn't the only issue that Buchanan has before the ethics committee.
The committee is investigating separate findings of the Office of Congressional Ethics, run by a board of non-legislators, that there is substantial reason to believe Buchanan tried to get a former business partner to lie to the Federal Election Commission in violation of federal law and a House rule.
The report said evidence showed that Buchanan, who owns several auto dealerships, tried to persuade an ex-partner to deny he was aware of reimbursements made to Buchanan contributors.
In the disclosure case, after being notified of the Office of Congressional Ethics findings that he omitted required information, Buchanan amended his annual reports on Sept. 15, 2011, and included positions he held that were not previously disclosed.
Buchanan told the ethics panel that unreported income, amounting to just under $15,000 over the four years, was a minuscule percentage of his assets and that such a small error demonstrated that he attempt to comply with disclosure requirements.
Buchanan's office said the congressman was pleased with the committee's action but not surprised, because many members of Congress routinely amend their reports to fix inadvertent omissions.
The committee report said, "Rep. Buchanan, in an interview with OCE (Office of Congressional Ethics) stated that the omissions were inadvertent. He explained that he relies on his staff and several accountants to prepare his financial disclosure statements and that, while he reviews the draft `a little bit,' he relies on others to `handle all the details.'"