Subpoenas Show Federal Probe At State Capitol Is Expanding

The Hartford Courant

A federal bribery and conspiracy investigation that grew out of efforts to kill a tobacco tax at the state legislature has widened in recent months to include how the state appropriated tens of millions of dollars through bonding.

The direction of the investigation is apparent in the language of subpoenas served by federal prosecutors in October and November of 2012 on employees of the state General Assembly. The subpoenas were obtained by The Courant Friday through a freedom of information request.

The subpoenas, issued by a federal grand jury, demanded documents and records, including email, in the possession of four current or former staff members at the House Democratic leadership office. The subpoenas also focused on two pieces of legislation introduced in the state Senate last year.

One of the bills imposed the tax on owners of retail tobacco businesses known as roll-your-own tobacco shops. The second authorized the appropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars through the issuance of state bonds for projects ranging from housing development to schools and community health centers.

The investigation became public last year when a half-dozen or so owners and employees of the tobacco businesses were charged with trying to kill the tax legislation by arranging to direct fraudulent campaign contributions to the congressional campaign for then-state House Speaker Christopher Donovan.

One of the health centers that received bonding money, Middletown-based Community Health Center Inc., issued the following statement late Friday night:

"It is a matter of public record that there is an [ongoing] inquiry by federal authorities into contributions to Chris Donovan's congressional campaign. Community Health Center, Inc. has, of course, cooperated and provided information as requested by the authorities. Due to the ongoing nature of this matter this is the only statement we will be giving."

Donovan lost a primary to Elizabeth Esty in the race for Congress after the investigation became public following the arrests of those associated with the tobacco businesses. Donovan, who is no longer in office, has denied any knowledge of the attempt to use his campaign staff to kill the legislation.

Both subpoenas were served on the joint committee for legislative management.

The October subpoena demands all email and attachments sent to or by Laura Jordan, who last year was a $150,000 a year attorney working for Donovan in his speaker's office. In addition, it demanded all documents and records in the custody of the speaker's office related to the tobacco tax or bonding legislation.

The second subpoena, served in November, demanded documents and records concerning the bills that were drafted by or in the custody of Cara Passaro, Gary Turco and Richard Baltimore. In 2012, the three worked for the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

The two bills are Substitute Senate Bill 25 and Substitute Senate Bill 357, both of which were introduced in the state legislature last year.

Substitute Bill 25 is bonding legislation that allocated tens of millions of dollars for projects running from municipal housing development to grants for museums.

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