Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

0Carla’s Pasta founder gets return on political donations

Carla Squatrito, founder of Carla’s Pasta in South Windsor, gave $1,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party last month, following up on another $1,000 donation in November.

Squatrito is a regular contributor to Democratic candidates and political action committees, giving $48,150 since 1999, according to the Federal Elections Commission. She made state-level contributions as recently as 2011, but as a recipient of state funds can no longer do so. Her recent donations to the state party went to its federal account.

The federal account allows state contractors and recipients of state funds to avoid the ban on their political donations.

Last year, the Department of Economic and Community Development awarded Carla’s Pasta a $4 million forgivable loan to fund an expansion project.

In 2012, Carla’s Pasta received a $2.2 million loan and $750,000 grant from the state to install a fuel cell.

“In Connecticut, the government works,” company vice president Sergio Squatrito told CT News Junkie when Gov. Dannel Malloy visited the new fuel cell. “Too many times businesses don’t step up and say ‘without the government this would not be happening.’”

1Gilbane grows state business, execs give back to Dems

Executives with the construction firm and state contractor Gilbane Building Co. donated $3,750 to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s federal account last month.

A party’s federal account can accept donations from any U.S. citizen including banned state contractors, making the state-level prohibition on their contributions moot.

Providence-based Gilbane has seen a growing amount of state business in recent years. According to the legislature’s transparency website, the state paid Gilbane about $900,000 in 2010, $1.5 million in 2011, $12.5 million in 2012 and $37.4 million in 2013.

The company is also part of the Stamford Manhattan Development Ventures. DOT selected the SMDV joint venture as preferred developer last year on a redevelopment project expected to cost half a billion dollars.

Although DOT selected SMDV, the agency has not announced a contract with the joint venture. The SMDV partners are JHM Group, Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation, ECCO III Enterprises and Gilbane.

Employees of the SMDV partners have been generously donating to the Democratic Party’s federal account.

 Weeks after DOT selected SMDV, John McClutchy Jr. of the JHM Group gave a $10,000 contribution to the state party. His wife and son each gave $10,000 as well.

– In November, employees of Buffalo-based joint-venture members gave another $27,500.

– In December, employees of SMDV partners contributed $32,500.

The contributions of Gilbane employees bring the running total to $93,750 since the announcement of preferred developer status.

Gilbane is also working on the $135 million Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington paid for with a forgivable state loan.

The state’s list of banned contractors does not include SMDV even though its principals are banned from making state-level political contributions.

0Access Health CT CEO Recognized for Valiant Efforts

Last Saturday a group of local college students known as the Wesleyan Young Advocates teamed up with the Middletown Community Health Center to honor the CEO of Access Health CT, the state’s Affordable Care Act portal, Kevin Counihan.

Flyers distributed by the studenaca bruncht group (pictured left) espoused Counihan and his underlings at Access Health CT for their “valiant contributions toward CT enrollment.”

Apparently the standard for what would constitute a valorous act has been lowered or is at least being misinterpreted by the WYA, who since September has been working to get Middletonians enrolled in the state healthcare exchange. I mean c’mon, does enrolling people in crummy government experiment that only 40% of people agree with really constitute an act of valor?

What surely was left unmentioned at this Left Wing love fest was the valor and courage it took to spend $79,000 on three pieces of artwork. Last December Raising Hale reported that Access Health CT, who is entrusted with the responsible management of private information on every enrollee, very responsibly used taxpayer dollars to have artwork commissioned and installed at various offices. Don’t worry though; Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman assures us that this is “a creative way for us to express that commitment to building healthier communities.”

Connecticut officials have boasted about the successes they have achieved enrolling people into the government controlled insurance marketplace in comparison with other state run exchanges. The Access Health CT exchange was also one of the first to reach completion, which of course is no surprise coming from a state that conceits to the President’s every wish.  

Meanwhile this week as millions instantly qualified for the Obamacare IRS penalty (supposedly), the President self-proclaimed the debate on repealing the healthcare law to be officially over. The achievement of the deadline enrollment goal of 7 million people apparently gives the president and the Left veto power over any argument concerning the successes or failures of Obamacare.

However what has not been reported by the administration is the amount of people that have actually paid for any of these healthcare purchases, the amount people who actually received healthcare for the first time or the amount of people that were forced off their existing coverage. Not to mention whether or not a sufficient amount of young “invincibles,” who are expected to shoulder the burden of healthcare costs, have enrolled to offset enrollees who will be totally subsidized.  

I guess when expectations for success are lowered to whether or not a multi-million dollar website actually functions one can easily be impressed.

Andrew is a Political Science Major at CCSU and a veteran of the USMC. 

0Candidate treasurer pleads guilty to stealing from state-funded campaign

The 2010 campaign manager and treasurer for Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree larceny for stealing $3,854.07 from the campaign.

Tanzania Cooper, 43, of Bloomfield, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge under the Alford doctrine. Previously, she faced first- and sixth-degree larceny charges.

Judge Jason Lobo sentenced Cooper to two years of probation, two years of suspended jail time and to pay restitution.

Prosecutor Christopher Alexy from the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office said Cooper “appropriated for herself campaign funds provided by the state.”

McCrory’s campaign paid Cooper $6,600 as manager.

An Alford plea means the defendant disputes some of the facts alleged by the prosecution, but admits the state likely has enough evidence to convict.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Cooper said McCrory “had no knowledge” and “was not involved.”

“Cooper never denied using campaign funds for personal and other unauthorized reasons,” the affidavit said. “She disputed the amount.”

According to the affidavit, Cooper said the amount was “closer to $2,000.”

“Cooper also indicated that other campaign members were involved with the illegal use of campaign funds but would not provide any further details saying, ‘Everyone has families,’ ‘It’s already a mess, it’s embarrassing,’ and ‘It’s going to be a circus,’” the affidavit said.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission referred evidence Cooper embezzled about $4,600 to the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney in August, prompting an investigation.

According to the affidavit, about 23 debit card withdrawals appear on the campaign’s bank statements but not on its expense reports.

McCrory participated in the Citizens’ Election Program, which provides state grants to campaigns. On July 26, 2010, his campaign received $25,980 in public funds.

Three of Cooper’s alleged cash withdrawals occurred before that date, leading to the charge of sixth-degree larceny. According to the affidavit, at least 19 unauthorized debits diverted funds from the state grant, leading to the felony first-degree charge.

According to the affidavit, Shawn Council was the first treasurer for the McCrory campaign and Cooper took over that role after she left.

Inspector Matthew Schroeder, who conducted the investigation and wrote the affidavit, also found evidence of expenditures that were never received by the recipient reported by the campaign.

Aziel Brown, the campaign’s deputy treasurer, told Schroeder “he never attended any meetings or performed any tasks for the McCrory campaign in any capacity.”

Cooper admitted to falsely claiming to have paid Brown $450, which he never received, to cover up her withdrawals, according to the affidavit.

1Jepsen’s ebook win averages 86 cents per resident

Connecticut residents are beginning to receive settlement payments from ebook publishers thanks to the efforts of Attorney General George Jepsen and his peers across the country.

Nationally the settlement amounts to $166 million, with $3 million intended for Connecticut residents, or an average of 86 cents per person.

Five publishers that settled a price-fixing lawsuit will make the payments.

Apple, another defendant in the suit, did not settle. The company is appealing a Federal District Court ruling and awaits another trial to set the amount of damages.

Jepsen’s office issued a statement:

“I encourage Connecticut consumers who filed claims or are otherwise eligible for credits through these settlements to check their email or mail and their retailer accounts to take advantage of the refunds that will begin arriving this week,” said Attorney General Jepsen.
Account credits and checks will be based on the number of eligible eBooks purchased during the claims period – April 1, 2010, to May 21, 2012. Whether a consumer receives a credit or a check depends on the retailer through which the eBook was purchased and, in certain circumstances, whether a claim was properly filed. Eligible consumers should check their email for communications from their eBook retailer regarding account credits. Checks will be sent by mail to eligible consumers. For more information about the settlements, please visit www.ebookagsettlements.com.
 “Consumers are entitled to a fair, open and competitive marketplace, and consumers who have suffered as a consequence of violation of antitrust laws are entitled to compensation,” the Attorney General said, “At the upcoming damages trial, Connecticut – along with Texas and New York – will be leading the effort on behalf of our partner states to obtain substantial additional compensation for consumers as well as civil penalties for the state.”
Assistant Attorneys General Joseph Nielsen, Gary Becker and Richard Porter; Paralegal Specialist Holly MacDonald; and Assistant Attorney General Michael Cole, chief of the Antitrust and Government Program Fraud Department, are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.

0Democratic Party collects February donations from ESPN and Blue Sky Studios

The Connecticut Democratic Party continued to legally collect donations from state contractors using its federal account in February, according to the most recent Federal Elections Commission filing, raising a little more than $133,000 from all sources.

Six ESPN employees contributed $500 each for a total of $3,000. ESPN is a First Five company.

The Walt Disney Productions Employees PAC also contributed $5,000. Disney owns ESPN.

Joseph Carabetta, of Carabetta Management, gave $2,500 on Feb. 3.

On Feb. 28, the State Bond Commission approved a $2.5 million loan for renovation of 4-40 Vine Street Housing, a property managed by Carabetta. The loan is for 30 years at 1 percent interest.

Three employees of Blue Sky Studios contributed a total of $4,000. Blue Sky and ESPN have benefitted from Connecticut’s film tax credits. Blue Sky also received a $3 million state loan in 2011.

Kevin Segalla, founder of the Connecticut Film Center and CFC Capital, donated $5,000.

The latest report from the Republican Party is not available yet.

1GOP donor switches to Dems after Malloy election, bond commission approves $6 million in state support

Abul Islam was a generous donor to the Connecticut Republican Party – until the state elected a Democratic governor.

Islam, as the principal of a state contractor, can only give to the federal accounts of either party. A party’s federal account cannot benefit candidates for state office like a governor. Instead, they support candidates for U.S. Congress, Senate or President.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Islam gave $350 to Democrats in April 2004, the first of his donations in the agency’s online database. At the time, then-Gov. John Rowland was facing the corruption scandal that led ultimately to his resignation and guilty plea to federal charges.

In 2008 and again in 2009, while the Republican M. Jodi Rell was governor, Islam gave $10,000 to the Connecticut Republican Party.

On Oct. 29, 2010, he gave another $2,500.

Days later, on Nov. 2, 2010, Connecticut elected Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, to be its next governor.

On the last day of 2010, before Malloy was inaugurated, Islam gave $2,500 to the Democratic Party. He followed that up with another $925 in 2011 and $2,500 more on Election Day 2012.

Islam said Malloy’s election is why he started giving to the Democratic Party and stopping giving to the Republican Party.

“I have been a longtime supporter of Dannel Malloy from his days as Mayor of Stamford,” Islam said.

Asked if he knew the federal account couldn’t benefit Malloy, Islam said, “Yes, I know that but I have been a supporter and a friend of Congressman John Larson for years, too.”

One of Islam’s companies, AI Engineers, has done about $18.2 million of work for the Department of Transportation since January 2011, including subcontracts, according to an agency spokesman.

AI Engineers did about $100,000 in business with the University of Connecticut in 2013, according to the state’s transparency website. In 2010, the company did a smaller amount of work for the UConn Health Center.

Last month, the state bond commission approved assistance for another company run by Islam, TAROB, including a $2.5 million 2 percent loan and a $1.8 million equity investment, to develop Residences at Riverview at 3 Constitution Plaza in Hartford.

The project will include 48 rental units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

The Capital Region Development Authority is providing the assistance to TAROB. Payments on the loan are deferred for six years.

The bond commission also approved $8.9 million for the Westport Housing Authority’s Sasco Creek Apartments. That property is managed by Millenium Real Estate. Bruce Whitaker Jr., Millennium’s owner, gave $5,000 to the Democratic Party’s federal account in November.

1Former rival’s nod gives Greenberg endorsements from more than half of Fifth District towns

Mark Greenberg, in his third run for Congress in Connecticut’s Fifth District, is well on his way to securing the Republican nomination.

Last week, Farmington became the 21st Republican town committee, out of 40 41, to endorse Greenberg. Support from Farmington is particularly significant because the committee chairman is a 2012 rival of Greenberg’s, Mike Clark.

“Mark has shown as a candidate for public office why he has been so successful as a businessman for more than 35 years,” Clark said in a statement. “He is passionate and tenacious, working for what he believes in. He knows that our country needs to change our economic course – I know he will fight for responsible government and policies to grow our economy.”

Greenberg’s statement on the occasion:

“I appreciate the support of Mike and the Farmington RTC.  To have their endorsement be the one that has provided our campaign with a majority of towns in the 5th District is an added bonus, particularly given the importance of the Farmington Valley in November.  The Farmington RTC has demonstrated their ability to win elections and govern their town effectively and I both need and deeply appreciate the support of their members.

“I also appreciate the support of all 21 of the RTC’s  that have endorsed me, their leaders and all of the folks who are unifying around our campaign for Congress. The families and businesses I have been meeting with are ready for a change in November.  They want leaders in Congress who will fight for them, instead of fighting for a left-wing ideology at the expense of our citizens, as Elizabeth Esty has done.”

Update: The Fifth District has 41 towns, not 40.

2Charges against former Virginia governor offer insight into FBI investigation at state Capitol

The U.S. Supreme Court has restricted the meaning of honest services fraud since Gov. John Rowland pleaded guilty to that charge a decade ago, but the same law could be at issue in an FBI investigation of House Republicans.

George Gallo served as chief of staff under Minority Leader Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk, from 2007 until he resigned last month, acknowledging he was a person of interest in the investigation. No arrests have been made.

Cafero said the Republican caucus is “cooperating fully with the federal inquiry.”

The FBI appears to be focused on direct mail vendors used by Republican House candidates, including Direct Mail Systems of Florida and King Strategic Communications of Ohio.

“It kind of looks like a kickback case,” said Eric Jaso, a partner at Seeger Weiss and former federal prosecutor. He said investigators may also be looking for “a secret or undisclosed ownership interest.”

Jaso said it was unclear to him, based on press accounts, what federal law was violated. “It is very puzzling. You need a federal jurisdictional hook,” he said.

“It’s almost like a commercial bribery case,” Jaso said, explaining that commercial bribery is, for example, when an architect pays to be on a landlord’s list of approved contractors.

Norm Pattis of the Pattis Law Firm said authorities take cases involving public officials more seriously “because they involve violations of the public trust.”

Pattis said one defense approach is to look at whether the payments were “a commission” that came out of company profits or “are you rolling that extra cost” into what the client pays.

Honest Services Fraud

Honest services fraud is a form of mail or wire fraud. Pattis said one form of fraud involves false representations and so a defense strategy would be to ask, “Were the representations in fact false?”

“Sometimes in fraud cases there’s buyer’s remorse” rather than fraud, he said.

The problem some courts have had with honest services fraud, Jaso said, is that officials do not have “reasonable notice of what’s illegal.”

“Where does mere dishonesty end and a violation of federal law begin,” he said.

Although the federal courts from the Supreme Court down have reduced the scope of honest services fraud in recent years, federal prosecutors recently charged former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife with conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud and three counts of honest-services wire fraud.

Last month, federal prosecutors indicted a California state senator on 24 counts for allegedly taking bribes from a hospital owner and an FBI front. The charges include honest services fraud.

“The theory is that when a local or state official takes a bribe or a kickback, he or she defrauds the people of the state or locality of their right to that public official’s honest services,” the law firm Hodgson Russ wrote in an analysis of the McDonnell indictment.

The bribe or kickback does not have to violate state law, either. In Virginia, “laws apparently place no financial limit on the gifts a state or local official can receive,” according to Hodgson Russ, although there are disclosure requirements.

In order to avoid being unconstitutionally vague, the U.S. Supreme Court “limited the scope of the honest-services fraud statute to bribery and kickback schemes, as opposed to ‘undisclosed self-dealing by a public official or private employee,’” according to an analysis of Ring v. United States by the law firm Saul Ewing.

“In other words, when a lobbyist offers ‘things of value’ other than campaign contributions, the government can establish bribery, and therefore a violation of the honest-services fraud statute, without establishing an explicit agreement between the lobbyist and the public official,” according to the Saul Ewing analysis.

According to Hodgson Russ, honest services fraud “does not criminalize mere failures to disclose conflicts of interest.”

“As a practical matter, the law gave federal prosecutors the power to criminalize objectionable behavior, conflating the merely unethical with the intentionally criminal,” wrote David Rittgers, a lawyer and former legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute. “Behavior that was not illegal under state law (particularly state ethics requirements for public officials) became illegal under federal law.”

“This criminalized an employee lying to his employer, and as Justice Scalia pointed out, ‘would seemingly cover a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ball game,’” Rittgers said.

“Public corruption is already illegal. But unlike the existing federal bribery and kickback statutes, the ‘honest services’ fraud statute isn’t limited to lobbyists or those who do receive federal funds,” Rittgers continues. “Breach of a fiduciary duty between private actors falls within the statute when motivated by a bribe or kickback.”

Under Color of Official Right

The charges against the McDonnells also include conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right and obtaining property under color of official right.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court in Evans v. United States, under common law “extortion was an offense committed by a public official who took ‘by color of his office’ money that was not due to him for the performance of his official duties.”

“It can be said that ‘the coercive element is provided by the public office itself,’” according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Resource Manual. “This theory of extortion under color of official right has resulted in the successful prosecution of a wide range of officials, including those serving on the federal, state and local levels.”

The manual also says a public official doesn’t have to have “actual authority” if it was “reasonable to believe” he or she had that power. For example, a “public official can extort money for permit beyond control of his office, so long as victim has a reasonable belief that he could affect issuance.”

“Some courts have held that private persons who are not themselves public officials can be convicted under this provision if they caused public officials to perform official acts in return for payments to the non-public official,” the manual says.

For example, the head of a local Republican Party was convicted for causing “public officials to induce a third party to pay out money.”

Private individuals who make such payments have also been charged under this statute.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was not receptive to under color of official right charges against private individuals, saying “we believe that, as a general matter and with caveats as suggested here, proceeding against private citizens on an ‘official rights’ theory is inappropriate.”

In addition to federal laws against bribery, there is also a law prohibiting illegal gratuities. The difference between the two is that an illegal gratuity is offered after an official action rather than before.

1Mystic Aquarium employees contribute to Democratic Party

Two Mystic Aquarium employees donated to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s federal account in January.

As a recipient of state funding, Mystic Aquarium is a state contractor. This means certain decision-makers, known as principals, cannot contribute to state political campaigns.

However, it is not illegal for the principals of state contractors to contribute to the federal accounts of state political parties. The State Elections Enforcement Commission warned parties about the practice last month.

Vice President William Parks contributed $5,000, in what appears to be his only federal political contribution ever, according to the Federal Election Commission website.

President and CEO Stephen Coan, a regular donor to political candidates of both parties, gave $1,000.

Mystic Aquarium received just less than $600,000 in state funding last year, according to the state’s transparency website, the smallest amount in the past four years. In 2012, the aquarium received $1.5 million and more than $600,000 in each of the two prior years.