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Where There’s Smoke: Investigators Uncover A Culture of Corruption at the CT Capitol

by | Jun 5, 2013 10:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Opinion, Smoke Shop Investigation, Aresimowicz, Cafero, Donovan



On Nov. 2, 2011, federal investigators were made aware of a conspiracy to influence a key state legislator in an effort to preserve a tax loophole for smoke shops using roll-your-own tobacco machines in Connecticut.

The tax loophole had been well publicized in 2011, as the state Department of Revenue Services had begun litigating the issue months earlier. Uncertain of the outcome of the state’s lawsuit, the smoke shop owners began working with a politically connected former correction officer on a plan to make sure new legislation would not close the loophole.

In the process of uncovering the scheme, federal investigators exposed a culture of corruption at the state Capitol as well as a campaign finance system still in dire need of overhaul, including much closer oversight for — or perhaps the abolishment of — the “leadership” PACs that were left in play the last time the campaign finance statutes were rewritten in 2005. But instead, Democrats in the General Assembly went in an entirely different and disappointing direction, opting to open the floodgates. More on that later.

What follows here is a timeline that tracks the pay-to-play scheme through numerous participants, undercover agents, and informants over the course of about two years on the way to seven guilty pleas and one jury trial conviction. The evidence also exposed the questionable activities of three high-ranking members of Connecticut’s political establishment: former House Speaker Chris Donovan, Assist. Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (who has since been promoted to Majority Leader), and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero.

No charges have yet been filed against the three despite numerous pieces of evidence showing that they were made aware of the scheme. Further, in some instances they even participated or allowed their staff to participate. See for yourself by clicking on the image at the top. All the pertinant trial evidence is now available here in chronological order.

Party leaders and the legislature thus far have demonstrated no interest in taking action, perhaps because of the stature of the individuals involved. But failing that, there is a chance that law enforcement may still get involved with respect to the evidence against Donovan, Aresimowicz, and Cafero. The other co-conspirators who either pleaded out or were found guilty are still to be sentenced, and there is always the possibility of more information coming to light in that process.

In cases where federal investigations reveal evidence of violations of state law, federal authorities often refer evidence in those matters to the Chief State’s Attorney’s office for consideration, and vice versa.

One thing is clear — by taking his case to trial, Donovan’s former campaign finance director allowed federal prosecutors to make public a pile of evidence that will make you wonder whether this was the exception to the rule, or business as usual in Connecticut.

Once the timeline opens up, you can click on the images on the left of each slide or on the headlines or live links in the text to visit pages of evidence posted on CTNewsJunkie.com. Anywhere that you see a play button you can click through to either hear or watch recordings captured by law enforcement surveillance during the investigation. There are quite a few news reports mixed in as well. Exhibit numbers may appear to be out of order because evidence related to early activities was gathered after search warrants were authorized later in the investigation.

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(4) Archived Comments

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | June 5, 2013  2:44pm

Bomb drops - boom! Smoke clears. Story emerges. Indictments to follow?


posted by: Not that Michael Brown | June 6, 2013  1:21pm

When you say “culture of corruption at the state Capitol” you cast a wide net.  I DO see that there was a disgusting, ham-fisted, character by the name of Ray Soucy who made an attempt to do everything you imply; first on his own behalf, then for the RYO owners, and eventually for the FBI as an informant.  I also saw a Minority leader refuse an attempted bribe (which was later turned into donations form ‘straw men.’)  I saw some underlings on the Donovan campaign say things and accept campaign donation that they should not have accepted.  It doesn’t appear any of the Donavan campaign workers were bribed, nor were any other officials.

I did see Soucy claim to the RYO owners that he could “kill the bill” for them as long as they were willing to bribe public officials.  The FBI heard about this from another scum-ball working in the RYO business: a convicted felon that the FBI had already turned.  Then they got Soucy to also turn tricks for the FBI - and he did it badly.  Those videos and tapes presented in evidence looked like a bad movie, with a bad actor, and an extremely bad script.

In the end no one got what they wanted.  The FBI wanted Donovan to admit that he killed a bill after receiving a donation to his campaign – a quid pro quo if you will.  He never admitted to this.  After Soucy thanked him for ”killing the bill,” a bill that was NOT killed by Donavan, a bill that never made it out of the Senate.  Donovan actually said just opposite, “I didn’t kill the bill.”  It was a stupid statement on the part of Soucy and his FBI handlers, since the Bill hadn’t reached the House yet.

There WAS also an obvious attempted bribe.  Here’s a timeline for you; 1) politician gets cash put in his office refrigerator, 2) politician returns cash and tells his aide to “punch out” and “take a walk” with the potential bribers, 3) the bribers turn the cash into campaign contribution checks, 4) politician returns donations once he realizes the FBI is aware of the attempted bribe.  These actions were all done by the Republican Minority Leader Larry Cafero.

posted by: JusticePartyCT | June 7, 2013  7:53pm

Thank you for the timeline, it really helps in following this dirty trail. Fundamentally, such corruption will continue in our state and in many states until the following occur (1) ALL campaigns must be publicly financed. No outside money. Zero. (2) Barriers of entry for new parties to participate in our political system must be abolished. Only through competition in our political system, as there is in our economic system, will politicians and their parties provide the best product to the consumer, i.e. the best government to the voters. (3) All lobbying must be conducted in an open an transparent manner for everyone to witness. (Writer is acting chairman of the Justice Party of Connecticut, http://www.justicepartyct.org)

posted by: Noteworthy | June 10, 2013  6:32am

The Genera Assembly doing a heckofa job.

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