Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) did not attend a planned court appearance in which he was scheduled to testify under oath, leading to accusations from his former business partner's lawyers that he was seeking to avoid having to testify until after the election.
"He was pushing it off... I think this is definitely their plan," attorney Joshua Kon, who is working for Buchanan's former partner in a lawsuit against him, told The Hill. "It's actually why we're moving for contempt. If the court sanctions him for $5,000 or even $10,000 he doesn't care, he has the money. He'd rather get three months [until after the election] for $5,000. We want to hold him in contempt and force him to testify."
"Mr. Ornstein recently spent six days in the hospital with pancreatitis. He was released and told to rest. He had another deposition on Thursday and was doing okay but then pushed himself through the weekend getting ready with Mr. Buchanan," Buchanan attorney Frank Kilgore told The Hill. "Yesterday, he had a relapse — just got too sick to go forward... It just became a matter of Mr. Ornstein relapsing and not being able to attend."
Buchanan is facing an ongoing investigations from the FBI, IRS and House Ethics Committee into unrelated charges that his companies improperly reimbursed employees who contributed to his campaigns and that they claimed improper tax deductions. That company was co-owned by Sam Kazran, the former partner in the suit, who has accused Buchanan of knowing of the illegal activity.
That has caused a string of bad headlines and election problems for the three-term lawmaker. The Hill rates his race "lean Republican."
Kon said that Buchanan's attorneys had repeatedly sought to delay the proceedings since they first tried to depose Buchanan in January, leading to a magistrate ordering July 30 as the date barring "unforeseen illness" — and that Buchanan had used Ornstein's illness as a way to get around the hearing.
Kilgore said Ornstein had been the lead attorney on the case for four years, making him the only attorney prepared for the deposition. He also said he did not know when the hearing would be rescheduled.
Buchanan's campaign also declined to say whether they thought the hearing would now occur before or after the election.
"Congressman Buchanan was ready today and will be available when it is rescheduled," said Buchanan campaign spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts, and referred all other questions to his attorneys.