Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez withdraws caucus leadership bid following husband’s indictment

Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez withdraws caucus leadership bid following husband’s indictment
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) has withdrawn her bid to become chair of the House Democratic Caucus following the indictment of her husband. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) has withdrawn her bid to become chair of the House Democratic Caucus, citing an “unexpected family matter” following her husband’s indictment on theft and conspiracy charges this week.

What are the details?

Sanchez is married to James Sullivan, the former board chairman of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative.  CMEEC is a private entity that has received more than $9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Sullivan was indicted along with four other individuals on theft and conspiracy charges on Thursday, in connection with $800,000 worth of trips funded by CMEEC to the Kentucky Derby and other locations, according to the Associated Press.

In a letter obtained by The Hill on Thursday, Sanchez announced to her colleagues: “an unexpected family matter requiring my attention compels me to withdraw my name as a candidate for Chair of the Democratic Caucus.”

Sanchez, who was re-elected on Tuesday, currently serves as vice chair.

The AP reported that Rep. Sanchez issued a statement later, 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.”

What are the charges about?

According to the Los Angeles Times, Sullivan and his co-defendants are accused of using public funds without permission to pay for private chartered flights, first-class hotel stays, tickets to sporting events and other gifts for themselves and their families.

U.S. Attorney John Durham said in a statement that the accused used utility ratepayer fees as “a secret slush fund to pay for lavish junkets for themselves and their family and friends, as well as for other inappropriate expenses,” the Times reported.

Last year, the Norwich Bulletin discovered Rep. Sanchez had joined her husband on trips to the Kentucky Derby in 2013 and 2014, which were funded by CMEEC. In response to the report, Sanchez’s spokesman issued a statement confirming the congresswoman’s attendance in a personal capacity, and saying the trips were “expressly allowed under House rules.”

The Bulletin noted that Sanchez was the ranking member of the House Committee on Ethics in 2012 when new travel rules were implemented, which went into effect the following April.