Vern Buchanan

Vernon G. "Vern" Buchanan (born May 8, 1951) is a Republican Congressman representing .

Early life and education

Buchanan grew up in Michigan, the son of a factory foreman in a family of six children. When he graduated from high school in 1969, he joined the Michigan Air National Guard, serving there for six years. Buchanan got a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Cleary University, in Michigan, and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Detroit.

Business career

After graduating with a BA, Buchanan went to work for Burroughs, a Detroit-based computer company. Next, in 1975, he became the Michigan distributor for an SMI, a firm that specialized in sales and marketing training materials.

American Speedy Printing

In May 1976, Buchanan convinced the owner of a Michigan printing company that he could help the business grow. The two founded American Speedy Printing, which grew through franchising to more than 730 stores in 44 states. In 1989, a subsidiary of Merrill Lynch made Buchanan a $15.4 million loan, guaranteed by his ownership in the company. In 1992, the company filed for bankruptcy, three days after Buchanan resigned; at the time, he owned all the company's stock.

Buchanan and American Speedy were defendants in a string of lawsuits during the late 1980s and early 1990s by franchisees and master franchisees, who said they were not making the money that Buchanan had said they could expect. After the bankruptcy, he was accused by a creditors committee of taking excessive compensation and actions that resulted in overstated earnings for American Speedy. In a 1995 deposition, he said that he had no personal obligation to repay the loan from Merrill Lynch; a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service over taxes on the money Buchanan received from Merrill Lynch stretched through the 1990s.

Florida businesses

In 1992, Buchanan bought a Honda and Acura dealership in Ocala, Florida. In late 1999, he bought two more dealerships. He continued to acquire dealerships after that, but in 2006 he sold five dealerships, plus his interest a clothing store and a spa, to concentrate on his House campaign, his spokesman said. His dealership group had $756 million in sales in 2005.

Off-shore reinsurance companies

Buchanan owns two reinsurance companies — Jamat Reinsurance Co. and Buchanan Reinsurance Co., in Turks and Caicos, and part of the Bermuda reinsurance company Greater Atlantic Insurance Co. The three companies offer extended warranty policies to car buyers. Buchanan invests some of the proceeds from his reinsurance companies in real estate developments in the Bahamas.

The Internal Revenue Service has stepped up efforts in recent years to investigate offshore reinsurance companies, and has urged Congress to change laws that help people benefit from these offshore tax havens.

Buchanan has defended his record saying, "I have always paid my taxes and it is a substantial amount, but I don't think anyone should pay more taxes than they owe." His campaign spokeswoman added that his use of offshore reinsurance companies is normal. She noted, "This is a widely accepted practice offered by hundreds of businesses and enjoyed by thousands of consumers."


In 1999, Buchanan was approached to help to finance a very large project — the Ritz-Carlton condo-hotel development in Sarasota. But Buchanan was cut out of the Ritz deal, because the developers, Robert Buford and Kevin Daves, said he lied about his financial worth. Buchanan sued, and the parties settled in 2001.

The settlement was unusual: Buchanan bought a penthouse apartment from a nephew of Buford's for $5 million; the nephew had purchased it the day before for $2.368 million. Buchanan owned the unit for slightly more than a year, until January 2003, and then sold it to another member of Buford's family for $6.35 million, using a deed dated a year earlier. The arrangement resulted in Buchanan paying about $260,000 less in federal taxes, because his profit of $1.35 million was taxed at 20% (capital gains) instead of 39.6% (regular income). Buford benefited because potential buyers checking property records would see that a penthouse had been sold to a wealthy car dealer for nearly $2 million more than any other condo in the building and then resold for a large profit a year later.

In the year he owned the penthouse, Buchanan used it for a number of charity benefits. That also benefited the developers: they got to show the Ritz experience to hundreds of the richest people in Southwest Florida and beyond.

Current holdings

In June 2007, Buchanan, in his financial disclosure filing, reported having over $100 million in assets, making him among the five wealthiest members of Congress. Most of his wealth is from his automotive empire, which includes several dealerships in Florida. He also reported ownership interests in about fifty other businesses, including offshore reinsurance companies, and a charter-jet business. He reported receiving at least $19.5 million in income from these businesses in 2006.


Involvement prior to 2006 race for the U.S. House

Buchanan served as state finance chair for Senator Mel Martinez's successful 2004 campaign. He was also co-chair of the Republican National Finance Committee.

2006 race for U.S. House of Representatives

Primary and election

Buchanan ran in the 13th congressional district in Florida to replace incumbent Republican Katherine Harris, who was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. Buchanan won the Republican primary with 32% of the vote, against four opponents. His closest challengers were Nancy Detert, with 25% of the vote, and Tramm Hudson, with 24%.

In the November general election, Buchanan faced Democrat Christine Jennings, a banking executive. There were 216,000 registered Republicans and about 155,000 registered Democrats in the district, but Jennings polled ahead of Buchanan up to election day. Buchanan put more than $5 million of his own money into his campaign.

In October, Vice President Dick Cheney held a fund raising luncheon for Buchanan;; later that month, President Bush held a fund raising reception for him. Between the two events, Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Martinez, and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney came to the district to campaign for Buchanan.

Initial results of the November election showed Buchanan leading by less than 350 votes. Due to the closeness of the race, and a high undervote of 18,000 in Sarasota County, a recount was ordered. Voters in Sarasota County had given more votes to a hospital board than they had to their Congressional representative-- with 13% of voters not voting, compared to an average of 2% in neighboring counties. The touch-screen voting machines used provided no paper record. On November 20, 2006, the Florida Department of State certified the results of the recount, which showed Buchanan winning by 369 votes.

Court challenge and review by Congress

Although Buchanan took office January 4, 2007, the matter was not settled. Jennings challenged the results of the election in court, citing "pervasive malfunctioning of electronic voting machines." In December 2006, a Florida circuit judge ruled that her claim that voting machines in Sarasota County lost up to 18,000 votes was "conjecture" and didn't warrant overriding the trade secrets of the voting machine company. In June 2007, a Florida state appellate court ruled that Jennings did not meet the "extraordinary burden" of proving the lower court judge was wrong.

The U.S. House of Representatives had the right to make the final determination as to whether Buchanan will hold the seat for the remainder of the term or be replaced by Jennings. In April, a three-person House task force was created to evaluate the election. In early May, the task force voted along party lines to refer an investigation into Florida’s 13th district House race to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Chairman Charles Gonzalez said he hoped to see results in as little as 45 days. In mid-June, the task force voted unanimously to move forward with a review of Sarasota County operations, suggested by the GAO. The target completion date is July 27.. Buchanan has not publicly commented on the investigation to this point.

On 25 February 2008, the committee and the House accepted the GAO's findings that no machine error was demonstrated as sufficient to have altered the outcome of the election. The House passed HR 989 affirming the findings of the committee, accepting the results of the 2006 race and formally dismissing Jennings' challenge of the election's results. Jennings formally dropped her challenge shortly thereafter to focus on her 2008 rematch against now-Congressman Buchanan.

110th Congress (2007-2009)

Buchanan was sworn in as Representative for Florida's 13th Congressional District on 3 January 2007. Congressional Quarterly noted that Buchanan voted in support of President Bush's legislative agenda 66 percent of the time in 2007, the third lowest rate of the 16 members of Florida's Republican congressional delegation. positions Buchanan as a "Populist Conservative", while labels him a "Moderate Republican".

Buchanan secured federal funding of $2 million for reimbursement for cleanup efforts in Anna Maria Island and $4 million dollars for cleaning up Wares Creek in Manatee County.

Buchanan introduced a constitutional amendment in January 2007 which would require Congress to pass a balanced budget if ratified. He introduced legislation to create a US Postage stamp honoring and assisting disabled veterans, as well as secured funding for the construction of a national veterans' cemetery in Sarasota County. Additionally, Buchanan introduced a bill to increase federal assistance for fighting gang crime and secured grant funding for local anti-gang efforts in Manatee County.

As of July 2008, Buchanan had voted to override five of President Bush's vetoes of legislation passed by the 110th Congress. These override votes included a vote in support of expanding the coverage range of the SCHIP program, the 2008 farm bill, and the Water Resources Development Act.

On September 29, 2008, Buchanan voted against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, but changed his vote to to support the the bill on the October 3, 2008 second House vote.

Buchanan was a member of two committees and three subcommittees:

  • Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
    • Subcommittee on Aviation
  • Committee on Small Business
    • Subcommittee on Finance and Tax
    • Subcommittee on Regulations, Healthcare and Trade

2008 race for U.S. House of Representatives

Neither Buchanan nor Jennings had opposition in the Florida primary election in August 2008, and so will face off again in the general election on November 4, 2008. They are also opposed by former 13th District Democratic nominee Jan Schneider, now running as a No Party Affiliation (NPA) candidate, and Don Baldauf, another NPA candidate.


Buchanan was chairman of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and is now the chairman of the board of the Florida state chamber of commerce. He is also a member of the board and the executive committee of United States Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife Sandy and their two sons live in Sarasota.


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