(Updated 11 p.m.) The federal investigation into House Speaker Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign also included donations to Republican political action committees under the purview of House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero’s office.
Cafero’s press aide delivered a statement to the Capitol press room after 7 p.m. Friday evening explaining that federal authorities told Cafero that Republican leadership PACs also had received straw donations in connection to the roll-your-own cigarette legislation.
Cafero was one of a dozen lawmakers interviewed Thursday by federal investigators. During the course of their conversation, Cafero said he learned that straw donors also delivered five $1,000 checks to three House Republican PACs.
Cafero said he promptly returned the donations after being informed that they came from straw donors, but he added that he was not given an explanation as to why the donations were made and was told he was not a target of the investigation. Sources have speculated that the target of this part of the investigation appears to have been the individual who arranged the straw donations that eventually reached the Republican PACs.
“As a result of the information given to me by federal officials at this meeting I made the decision to return these donations of questionable origin to the donors so as not to negatively reflect on the compliance standards we maintain for all of our political action committees,” Cafero said in the statement.
Cafero was not immediately available for comment Saturday morning.
“The government has requested we refrain from further comment regarding this investigation and we will continue to honor the request,” Cafero said at the end of his statement.
Since the Republicans are in the minority at the General Assembly and simply based on ideology would oppose any tax increase, which was the crux of the roll-your-own cigarette legislation, it’s not clear what donating money to their political action committee accomplished for the federal investigation. Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney said Friday that he had not been interviewed yet by federal authorities. The bill proposed was a Senate bill, which would have had to clear that chamber first before heading to the House where Donovan and Cafero both serve. The legislation is expected to be resurrected June 12 when the General Assembly returns for a special session to implement the budget.
Sources said the donations by the two straw donors to the Republican PACs originated from the same man who arranged the straw donations that led to the conspiracy charges against Robert Braddock Jr., Donovan’s finance director. Braddock was charged with conspiracy to conceal $20,000 in donations broken up into eight $2,500 checks. Most of the checks were made out to the Donovan campaign, and the one that was made out to the state Democratic Party already has been returned, according to party chairwoman Nancy DiNardo.
Braddock’s arrest affidavit, which is the only information that has been released by federal authorities thus far, describes how an undercover FBI agent posed as an investor for a roll-your-own smoke shop and gave cash to a man described as Co-Conspirator 1. The affidavit says Co-Conspirator 1 agreed to recruit straw donors to pass the donations on to the campaign.
Sources said Friday they believed Co-Conspirator 1 to be correctional officer and former AFSCME Local 387 treasurer Ray Soucy. The Courant also has reported that the last four digits of Co Conspirator 1’s phone number are a match to the last four digits of a phone number listed as Soucy’s on Local 387’s website.
Soucy’s phone number and the leadership positions he held with both AFSCME and the AFL-CIO were removed from the organizations’ websites Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Local 387 President Lisamarie Fontano said she relieved Soucy of his leadership role after she learned he was being investigated.
“I relinquished him of his duties. He hasn’t been arrested or charged with anything but I felt it was in the best interest of the other members I represent,” she said in a telephone interview.
Fontano said she had no idea how Soucy ended up involved a federal sting operation over legislation involving roll-your-own cigarette shops.
“This was not associated with the local at all. This was Ray himself as his own entity,” she said.
Fontano said Soucy had gone on medical leave after suffering from a heart attack a couple months ago and returned to work as a correctional officer on Friday. She said Soucy, who did not return CTNewsJunkie’s calls for comment, was understanding of her decision to remove him as the local’s treasurer.
“I’m sure it wasn’t something he was looking forward to, but I think he understood. He’s been in this business for many years,” she said.