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  [FL Rep] Buchanan workers tell of donation pressure
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Last EditedArmyDem  Jul 26, 2008 08:23pm
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MediaNewspaper - Sarasota Herald-Tribune
News DateFriday, July 25, 2008 02:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionEx-employees claim that Vern Buchanan's campaign broke laws

By Jeremy Wallace

Published: Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 2:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 1:06 a.m.

Two former executives for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's auto dealerships said they were pressured to donate to Buchanan's 2006 congressional campaign and were offered cash and gifts as inducements, which would violate federal campaign laws.

The former employees, Carlo A. Bell and Joe D. Kezer, are suing Buchanan, alleging his auto dealerships cheated customers. The alleged violations of campaign finance laws are not part of the lawsuit. The former employees went public with the claims this week, after Buchanan's lawyers rejected their $43 million offer to settle the lawsuit.

Lawyers for Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, called the latest allegations an effort "to dishonestly tarnish Vern Buchanan's reputation three months before an election."

Bell, the former finance director at Venice Nissan Dodge, said the day he made a $1,000 donation to the Buchanan campaign, he was given $1,000 in cash from his boss at the auto dealership.

Bell gave the Herald-Tribune bank records, which included copies of a canceled check dated Sept. 17, 2005, to the Buchanan campaign for $1,000 and a cash deposit made to his account the same day for $960. He said he took the rest as spending money.

"I was told I was going to be reimbursed," Bell said. "I either had to do this, or I was told I wouldn't be considered a team player. I took it as a threat. There was no gray area."
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