The Federal Election Commission has fined three men and two Tampa companies a total of $16,000 for illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. The FEC’s case was prompted by a 2009 Tampa Bay Times story about contributions made in the name of Terry Keith Howell, a registered Democrat who was bankrupt when he gave $8,800 to Buchanan. The money actually came from Howell’s business partners in violation of a federal law that bans third-party contributions. Howell ” was concerned about the appearance of his contribution because Howell was a Democrat but was contributing to the Republicans at a time when he didn’t have any money,” according to a report by the FEC’s general counsel.
During Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 campaigns, Howell was a partner in a trucking company with Tampa home builder Timothy Mobley, a longtime friend of Buchanan’s, and Mobley’s brother-in-law, Timothy Hohl. In testimony to the FEC, Howell said Mobley asked him to contribute to Buchanan, a member of the House transportation committee, because ” the amount of favors he could do for us was enormous.”