NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The former board chairperson of a Connecticut energy cooperative and estranged husband of a California congresswoman was sentenced Wednesday to six months in prison for using public funds to pay for lavish trips to the Kentucky Derby and a luxury golf resort.
James Sullivan, 56, a one-time Democratic congressional candidate in Connecticut, was convicted of helping plan trips in 2015 and 2016 for dozens of top staff, board members and family members totaling $800,000. Prosecutors said the trips were unrelated to the business of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative, which receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The $800,000 included travel expenses, private chartered airfare, first-class hotel accommodations, meals, tickets to sporting events, golf fees, souvenirs and gifts, federal prosecutors said.
For a trip to the Kentucky Derby trip in 2015, which prosecutors said had an average cost of approximately $9,000 per guest, Sullivan brought his son, brother and sister-in-law, as well as a woman he knew and her friend.
Sullivan is married to Democratic U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez, who dropped her bid for chair of the House Democratic Caucus after Sullivan’s indictment in 2018. Connecticut court records indicate the couple is going through divorce proceedings.
A second case against Sullivan and the energy cooperative’s former CEO is still pending related to $100,000 of Sullivan’s personal and travel expenses, including several entries that included expenses for Sanchez, such as travel to the Kentucky Derby and to Key West, Florida, in 2014.
An email was left seeking comment with a spokesperson for Sanchez.
In 2018, a spokesperson for Sanchez said she attended a Kentucky Derby trip “in her personal capacity as the spouse of a board member, which is expressly allowed under House rules. 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.”
Sullivan, the second of three people to be sentenced this week in the scheme, apologized in court and called the trips “a serious lapse of judgment,” according to The Day of New London. He’s required to report to prison July 12.
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