House GOP returns suspected FBI sting money

The federal investigation that targeted the congressional campaign of House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, also may have funneled sting money into three political action committees controlled by state House Republicans, according to a GOP leader.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said Friday night that three House GOP political action committees are returning five $1,000 checks that were donated by two donors suspected of donating FBI money for reasons unknown.

Cafero said that FBI agents informed him of the donations Thursday, but they refused to tell him why federal sting money apparently was contributed to three GOP political action committees.

“A lot of the questions you’re asking me, we asked them,” Cafero said during an interview Friday night. “They said, ‘Sorry, we can’t answer that.’ “

The Republican donations are the first indication that the cased involving Donovan’s campaign was part of some kind of wider investigation into political donations at the State Capitol.

Cafero said he was approached about how to send donations to the GOP around April 4, which is the day after the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee approved legislation at the center of the Donovan case: a bill to tax roll-your-own cigarettes.

The FBI arrested Donovan’s finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., on Wednesday and charged him with concealing the source of $20,000 made out in eight checks for $2,500.

The government claims that Braddock accepted the money knowing the donor wanted to kill the tobacco legislation. A bundle of checks for $10,000 was donated after the finance vote, and another $10,000 was given after the bill died from inaction as the annual session ended May 9.

An undercover FBI agent posing as a tobacco investor supplied the money.

The affidavit supporting Braddock’s arrest detailed meetings and conversations arranging the donations from the undercover agent. But Cafero said the FBI gave him no back-story about how or why the sting money made its way to the GOP.

“There were no such conversations, no such meetings” with Republicans, Cafero said. But the FBI agents told him they had reason to believe its money also was funneled to the GOP political action committees.

The FBI told Cafero that neither him nor anyone in his office were targets of the investigation, Cafero said.

Cafero said the FBI initially tried to dissuade him from returning the checks, but he wanted the checks returned immediately.

“I felt it was best for me to say thanks, but no thanks,” he said.

Two of the five checks never were deposited, because a staffer went on vacation and left then uncashed for seven days, rendering them void, he said.

Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined comment.

So how did two donors come to mail checks to the three committees? And was there a common link to the Donovan campaign?

Cafero said a politically active person asked how to donate money to the political action committees. Based on the timing of the inquiry, he suspects the person had directed the donations made with FBI money.

Political operatives in both parties say that Ray Soucy, a correction officer active in AFSCME, had involved himself in the tobacco issue, offering to arrange campaign contributions.

Cafero declined to say if Soucy was the man who asked how to send the checks, saying the FBI asked him to withhold details about the donations, including the names of the potential straw donors.

Soucy, who also is the president of the Western Connecticut Central Labor Council, did not return calls and an email seeking comment.

The Braddock arrest affidavit describes someone identified only as “CC-1,” short for co-conspirator, accepting the money from the undercover agent, then arranging for persons willing to allow the money to be donated in their names.

It mentions CC-1 as leaving a voicemail for Braddock with a phone number. The area code and prefix were redacted, but the last four digits were included: 6519.

Those are the last four digits of Soucy’s cell phone number, which was listed on the labor council web site.