Political News

Democratic lawmaker drops leadership bid, announces her husband is 'facing charges'

Posted November 8, 2018 8:44 p.m. EST

— Democratic Rep. Linda Sánchez of California withdrew a bid for House Democratic leadership on Thursday, citing "an unexpected family matter," and later said in a statement that her husband "is facing charges in Connecticut."

Sánchez had been vying for the position of House Democratic Caucus chair in the next Congress, where Democrats will hold a majority after Republicans lost control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections Tuesday.

In a letter on Thursday announcing she was dropping her bid, Sánchez wrote, "Unfortunately, an unexpected family matter requiring my attention compels me to withdraw my name as a candidate for Chair of the Democratic Caucus."

Sánchez elaborated later in a statement, saying, "Earlier today I learned that my husband is facing charges in Connecticut. After careful consideration of the time and energy being in leadership demands, I have decided that my focus now needs to be on my son, my family, and my constituents in California."

Sánchez currently serves as vice chair for the House Democratic Caucus. Her congressional website says she is married to James Sullivan.

The US Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut announced on Thursday that a federal grand jury in New Haven had "returned two indictments charging a total of five individuals connected with a southeastern Connecticut energy cooperative with offenses related to the theft of federal funds."

One of the individuals charged in the first indictment is James Sullivan. Contact information for Sullivan and the other defendants was not immediately available.

According to the attorney's office, that indictment alleges that Sullivan along with four other individuals "planned, organized and directed lavish trips outside of Connecticut, including trips to the Kentucky Derby in 2015 and 2016, and to a luxury golf resort in West Virginia in 2015." It alleges that the trips were not tied to business related to the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Corporation, but that "The co-conspirators directed that the funds used to pay for the trips come from the CMEEC Margin account, without a vote of the CMEEC Board of Directors and without the written consent of the member towns as required by the CMEEC membership agreement."

The second indictment charges Sullivan as well as another individual "with engaging in a conspiracy to pay for Sullivan's personal expenses with CMEEC funds." It alleges that a man named Drew Rankin, the chief executive officer of the cooperative, "authorized the payment of numerous personal expenses for Sullivan, including airfare for dozens of flights Sullivan took, trips for Sullivan and his family members to attend the Kentucky Derby in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and airfare for a flight for Sullivan's wife to travel to Key West, Florida, in December 2014."

CNN has reached out to Rankin and Sullivan for comment and has not yet received a response.

The announcement from the US attorney's office on Thursday said all five of the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In 2017, Sánchez defended travel to Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband after The Bulletin, a Connecticut newspaper, reported that the two had taken trips in 2013 and 2014. According to the newspaper, Sánchez's office said "she did not run afoul of Congressional ethics rules."

"Congresswoman Sanchez attended the event in her personal capacity as the spouse of a board member, which is expressly allowed under House rules," a statement given to the newspaper by a spokesperson for the congresswoman said at the time, "Although she was not required to do so, out of an abundance of caution she did seek the advice of the House Ethics Committee prior to attending, and the committee confirmed that she could attend."