(Updated 5:13 p.m.) Subpoenas released Friday show that federal investigators plan to search through text messages, emails, contracts, and other correspondences as they scrutinize the relationship between top Republican staffers and two direct mail companies.
The federal subpoena dated Feb. 14 asks for “Any and all documents including, but not limited to, correspondence, memoranda, letters, emails, text messages, invoices, contracts, agreements, with any direct mail vendor utilized by the Connecticut House Republican Office.”
All four subpoenas ask for all correspondence House Republican staff had with George Gallo, the House Republican chief of staff, who resigned before news of the federal inquiry broke.
The subpoena also asked for information regarding The Vinco Group LLC, the consulting firm Gallo created in 2003 and used to do some of his political consulting work. In addition, it asked for any information pertaining to Direct Mail Systems of Florida and King Strategic Communications of Ohio, another direct mail company used by Republican lawmakers dating back to 2008, according to campaign finance filings. Direct Mail Systems has not returned calls seeking comment. Joe King, president of King Strategic Communications, responded today with a written statement:
“While none of the issues raised involve our company, we understand that authorities often need incidental data to help them do their job,” King wrote. “We will, of course, cooperate. We’re proud of the all the work we do and we always operate in a legal, ethical and above-board manner.”
The Office of Legislative Management also was subpoenaed. The language in that subpoena was exactly the same as that of the other three.
One of the subpoenas released Friday by House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero was for the New Friends PAC. Cafero and his staff inadvertently failed to mention that New Friends PAC was subpoenaed Thursday when he acknowledged the federal investigation and Gallo’s resignation.
All four subpoenas ask lawmakers and staff to appear before a grand jury to testify at 9 a.m., March 4, in New Haven.
“The FBI didn’t indicate exactly what they were looking for, what potential crime they were trying to investigate, so we don’t know the answer to that,” Cafero told a few reporters Friday morning outside his office.
Sources say about 10 Republican lawmakers who used Direct Mail Systems of Clearwater, Fla. also were questioned Wednesday afternoon in their offices at the Legislative Office Building.
Cafero said he was one of the lawmakers questioned, but was unable to say how many other lawmakers may have been questioned by federal authorities.
Cafero said it’s an ongoing investigation and federal authorities “have asked us not to talk about it.”
Thomas Carson, a spokesman for Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly, declined comment.
Chris Healy, another former Republican Party chairman, said that during his tenure as chairman the Connecticut Republican Party used Direct Mail Systems because it was one of the direct mail houses that knew how to handle political mailings. From graphic design to postage, these firms handle everything for the candidate or political committee.
“There’s a lot more to this,” Healy said Friday referring to the intricacies of political mail.
There are about a dozen national direct mail companies that do business in the state of Connecticut.
Quinnipiac University Law Professor William V. Dunlap said based on the information that’s been released at this point “we don’t really know what the FBI is after.”
He said they seem to be looking into financial transactions regarding direct mail companies, but even if a candidate was directed to use a company it’s not necessarily a crime.
Dunlap also pointed out that a federal inquiry may not lead to criminal charges, and if there are criminal charges they won’t necessarily be against the candidates who used these companies.
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report