Lawmaker Denies Trying to Buy Out His Challenger

Mar 7, 2012 5:34pm

A Member of Congress is denying that he tried to buy out his primary opponent in Florida.

The primary challenger, county courts clerk James Jett, claimed to a group of Republicans at a country club that the congressman, Republican Cliff Stearns, offered him money and appointments in exchange for quitting the race. Jett said at the country club meeting that the FBI is investigating Stearns, The Florida Times-Union reports.

Jett said a former education commissioner acted on Stearns’s behalf to offer Jett a job on the campaign, a job running the state’s law department, a U.S. marshal position, and $25,000 to cover his own bid for Congress. He also said House Speaker John Boehner was used “as leverage,” according to the paper, but that Jett didn’t think Boehner “was aware.”

“I’ve got this on tape,” Jett said, according to the paper. “This has national ramifications, and I don’t want to harm the Republican Party.”

A spokesman for Stearns, Paul Flusche, wrote a statement calling Jett’s claim “totally unfounded” and that “no one is authorized to make any claims or concessions on behalf of Rep. Stearns.”

“He has not communicated with Mr. Jett at any time to get out of the race,” Flusche said.

Flusche also said that “it is in violation of Florida State law for him to record a phone call of someone without his advising him or her he is doing it.”

Neither Stearns’s office nor the FBI would confirm that the bureau is investigating him. Blanca Gilbert, an FBI special agent in Florida, would say only, “We have no comment.”

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