A California congresswoman whose husband was indicted on theft and conspiracy charges in Connecticut cited an "unexpected family matter" Thursday in withdrawing as a candidate for chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez, now the caucus vice chair, is married to James Sullivan, one of five people indicted on theft and conspiracy charges this week in connection with a public electricity cooperative and $800,000 worth of trips to the Kentucky Derby and other locations.
Sanchez, who represents the 38th District in the Los Angeles area, wrote in a letter to fellow Democrats, "Unfortunately, an unexpected family matter requiring my attention compels me to withdraw my name as a candidate for Chair of the Democratic Caucus."
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She said later Thursday in a statement, "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."
The indictments of Sullivan and the other four defendants were announced Thursday by federal prosecutors, the FBI and the IRS. All five were linked to the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Corp., or CMEEC, a public company that has received more than $9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Sullivan, 52, of Norwich, Connecticut, was the chairman of the cooperative's board of directors. Among the others indicted were the company's chief executive, Drew Rankin, 57, and chief financial officer, Edward Pryor, 62.
All five defendants pleaded not guilty Thursday in federal court in New Haven and were released on $100,000 bail.
"These defendants are alleged to have used the CMEEC Margin Account as a secret slush fund to pay for lavish junkets for themselves and their family and friends, as well as for other inappropriate expenses," Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham said.
Prosecutors said the defendants organized the trips to the Kentucky Derby in 2015 and 2016 and to a luxury golf resort in West Virginia in 2015, and the trips did not relate to any CMEEC business.
The indictment says Rankin authorized numerous payments for Sullivan's expenses, including trips for Sullivan and his family to attend the Kentucky Derby and airfare for Sanchez to travel to Key West, Florida, in 2014.