Former City Councilman Joel “Speedy” Gonzalez has a taste for reviewing campaign finance reports he claims contain dubious information provided by city political operatives. He’s attempting to turn a Democratic South End political organization into a cause célèbre with his filing of a campaign finance complaint. Joel represented this political district when he served on the council so he’s familiar with the territory and players. Is Joel’s complaint credible? It’s always titillating when City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, is listed as a location for a fundraising sojourn. Check out his commentary.
As far back as six years ago, I’ve been keeping a close eye on a particular group of Bridgeport political operatives in the Bridgeport Democratic Party. I’ve paid closer attention to a group of elected and up-and-coming Hispanic Bridgeport Democrats after noticing and hearing about their method of operation in committing suspected acts of corruption and malfeasance. There was a time when many of these acts went undetected or unnoticed due to the difficulty in obtaining and checking documents.
In 2005, Connecticut became the third state in the country to adopt a voluntary system of full public financing for candidates who run for the state legislature and statewide office. The Citizen’s Election Program began to award grants to candidates who volunteered to abide by the rules and regulation of CEP; the matching grant and the amount depends on the office the candidate is seeking. The CEP program is managed by the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission. The SEEC has website where all Campaign Financial Reports can be viewed by the general public via their eCRIS system; this is where I started to examine the reports back in 2007. Attention all OIB passengers: Flight 009 will be departing soon, please get a cup of joel and enjoy your flight back to the year 2007 and back.
One would think the fact the public can view and examine the campaign financial reports of any candidate committee would mean they would not violate the public trust by misusing public funds.
I’ve spent many years studying SEEC rules and on occasion viewing countless reports. There were a few involving Bridgeport-elected state representatives with violations that could only be obvious by those who knew the names of the people on the reports. I decided to leave some of them alone for the time being to see how far and for how long they would go, before filing complaints with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
By March of 2008, I had switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. I had the opportunity to get the Bridgeport Republican Party’s endorsement for State Representative in the 130th District. I received the endorsement and was waiting for the November Election Tsunami. On the Democratic side, Ezequiel Santiago received the party’s endorsement and was being challenged by Sylvester Salcedo and the late Chico Rivera. In addition, Rafael A. Mojica (Mojo) was running as an independent. Americo Santiago, the father of State Representative Ezequiel Santiago, the 2008 campaign manager, and mastermind of the fraud alleged in my SEEC complaint was under pressure and desperate by May of 2008. The Santiago 2008 Committee was having great difficulty raising the $5000 necessary to qualify for the $25,000 CEP grant. Americo Santiago, Ezequiel Santiago, Mitchell Robles and several other individuals conspired in a plot to defraud the State of Connecticut and Santiago 2008 campaign committee contributors of over $50,000. On June 28, 2013, I filed a complaint and on July 17, 2013, the State Elections Enforcement Commission voted to authorize an investigation and gave it File No. 2013-098. The complaint is as follows, but there is more to it:
The Santiago 2008 Candidate Committee failed to truthfully report the manner by which the fundraising event #062808A was held. The Santiago 2008 Committee disclosed in its finance disclosure statement to SEEC that fundraising event #062808A took place at 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport CT 06604. The description of the event is listed as “Bus trip.” The alleged fundraising event location (45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport CT) is the address of Bridgeport City Hall. The event day was a Saturday and City Hall was closed. It would be illegal to hold a fundraising event on public property. The event was described as a “Bus trip.” The Santiago 2008 Candidate Committee intentionally withheld this information and failed to report fundraising event #062808A was in fact a bus trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino.
The Santiago 2008 Committee disclosed in its finance disclosure statement to SEEC, the committee reports an expenditure for “bus transportation” and shows a payment of $750.00 (check #1006) made to Chieppo Charters Inc. on 6/28/08. I spoke with a person at Chieppo and was informed a woman named Leticia Colon stated she was a City of Bridgeport employee and made arrangements for the bus trip with Chieppo Charters Inc. Once the bus arrived at the Mohegan Sun Casino, everyone on the bus received a $10 food voucher and $10 in casino tokens as part of the $30 paid for the trip tickets. The committee failed to report items donated by a business entity of up to $100. The casino provided $20 of food and tokens to every person on the bus. It is common practice for casinos to provide tokens and food to group tours. Most of the people who purchased the bus trip tickets were not told it was a political fundraising event and not asked to fill a contribution form. It was sold as a $30 bus trip with $20 tokens and food by the Mohegan Sun Casino. Every contributor who attended the event received a $20 reimbursement from a third party. 45 Lyon Terrace was the point of departure of the buses to the Mohegan Sun Casino. The Santiago 2008 Committee participated in the Citizen’s Election Program and qualified for a $25,000 grant. The contributions collected in the fundraising event #062808A are prohibited contributions as the contributors were reimbursed $20. The Santiago 2008 campaign would have not been able to raise sufficient qualifying contributions to meet the required $5000 in fundraising to qualify for the Citizen’s Election Program’s $25,000 grant for the primary and an additional $25,000 for the 2008 General election. The true number of tickets sold is unknown. Some people who paid for tickets missed the bus. I witnessed two buses pick up passengers at the parking lot area of City Hall on June 28, 2008. Jose Negron of 30 Cole Street, Bridgeport, Raphael Rosario of 730 State Street, Bridgeport, and Americo Santiago of 93 Burnham Street, Bridgeport handled the sale and collections of bus trip proceeds. Most of the people paid cash. The Santiago 2008 disclosure shows approximately 49 people contributing on 6/27/2008 and 6/28/2008. They had been selling tickets since early May of 2008.
See Santiago report here.
Additional report search: seec.ct.gov/ecrisreporting/SearchingDoc.aspx