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Norwalk’s Cafero defends himself from Hartford columnist

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State Rep. Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk), House minority leader, said Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie hasn’t spoken to him about allegations made by Harry Raymond Soucy.

NORWALK, Conn. – A political columnist for Connecticut’s most influential newspaper is calling for the head of state Rep. Larry Cafero, but the Norwalk-based minority leader says he is innocent of the allegations upon which the writer is basing his opinion.

The columnist, Kevin Rennie, of the Hartford Courant, says Cafero’s appearance in a covert FBI videotape in the just-concluded trial of  Robert Braddock, a fundraiser for former Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan’s unsuccessful 2012 congressional campaign, has stunned his colleagues in the legislature. Cafero said that Rennie is expressing opinions as fact and that the columnist seems to be out to get him.

“He is borderline obsessed with me,” Cafero said Saturday. “Since Feb. 1, he has written 11 columns about me.”

The latest column, published May 21, is “totally incorrect,” Cafero said.

Braddock was found guilty on May 21 of multiple offenses stemming from a scheme to direct illegal contributions into Donovan’s campaign coffers. So-called political fixer Harry Raymond Soucy testified during the trial that he had put $5,000 in cash into Cafero’s office refrigerator, the Connecticut Mirror reports. A videotape of the incident was played in the trial, showing Cafero and Soucy together at the refrigerator.

Neither Cafero nor Donovan has been charged or accused by the government of being aware of the effort to bribe them.

Cafero said that March 14, 2012 meeting with Soucy was portrayed to him as a half hour meet and greet – there was no legislation pending at the time, he said. Soucy offered to make a donation to a political action committee but was told that couldn’t be done on state property, Cafero said. He offered Soucy a drink and wound up “looking at him like he was nuts” as Soucy tried to give him an envelope at the refrigerator, Cafero said. Cafero refused it and sent him out with a staff member, he said.

Cafero said the staff member called him right away and said there was cash in the envelope. “I said, ‘Please turn right around, return it,’” Cafero said.

Soucy was told the correct ways to submit a donation and followed those instructions after that, he said.

Rennie’s column says that Cafero took the money in cash before asking for it to be donated by check, which indicated that he knew it was “dirty.” His phrasing includes that Cafero “feigned surprise,” played a “sordid role” in a scheme and is “grimy and dishonest.”

“The scandal claimed Donovan’s career in politics, sinking his campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 5th Congressional District,” Rennie writes. “If Republicans stand for anything, the scandal must also mark the end of House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero’s long tenure in the House.”

Rennie, a former Republican state legislator, said in a phone call that members of the House Republican caucus are embarrassed.

“I think they were stunned at what the trial revealed about the $5,000, which members were not told to their great embarrassment until the trial took place,” he said. “You don’t want to be learning ugly facts about the leader of your party during a trial. You certainly don’t want to see the leader of your caucus played on a video in a federal criminal trial.”

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton) did not return an e-mail asking for comment.

Rennie has since written a blog post saying that a politician who is given cash should call the police.

Rennie mentioned that in the phone call as well. “Anyone who has been in politics for very long, and he has been in it for a long long time, know what that means,” he said. “The cash was accepted by him and his people. It doesn’t require a wire tap (to know that).

Cafero said he did not know about a videotape until it appeared during the trial. “I was relieved because I think I was vindicated by the tape,” he said.

Rennie and others “might want to draw conclusion from that with the benefit of hindsight,” but “I am very proud of my staff, I’m proud of myself, we followed all the protocols, we did the right thing,” Cafero said.

Cafero said he has gotten thousands of emails, texts and phone calls of support, the fruit of his 28 years in public office.

“I am sure there are a lot of people who disagree with me on various positions. ” he said, “but no one ever said I ever did anything to compromise my integrity or the integrity of the organization of which I am part of.”

Comments

24 responses to “Norwalk’s Cafero defends himself from Hartford columnist”

  1. Joanne Romano

    I wonder what bribes this reporter is taking to remove Larry from office! Sounds like he has either a personal agenda or is doing the work of someone else to besmirch Larry’s reputation. Unfortunately he made such damaging accusations in his article that other papers picked up the same twisted account and it became a media frenzy! People need to understand that a newspaper article is the perception of the writer and not always factual (sorry Nancy 🙂 ). Having known Larry for a very long time it was quite surprising to see all those headlines and very disturbing. Just because a newspaper says something doesn’t make it gospel! I’m very happy to see that Larry has integrity and knows right from wrong and proves to be the leader he has always been! I’ve learned alot over the years from him and I find it very disconcerting that someone would go to such lengths to destroy a good mans reputation.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Joanne Romano
      You are correct in that newspaper/online COLUMNS are opinion and are the perception of the writer, and many people do not realize that the opinion columns, most cable “news” shows and many websites (Drudge, Huffington Post, NewsMax are just a few) are agenda driven. Straight news reporting, though, is not (or should not be) perspective-driven. In this case, for instance, there are two news elements — Mr. Cafero turned up on the tape in a corruption trial, and the Courant columnist wrote a couple of flaming columns virtually convicting Mr. Cafero in the court of public opinion for crimes no one has accused him of committing. People — be they columnists or people commenting on websites or in other public venues — should not be so fast to convict people of “crimes” they haven’t even been charged with.

  2. Bryan Meek

    When the IRS is being used to persecute political opposition to Democrat policies, does it really surprise anyone that the FBI might be used to shakedown Malloy’s potential 2014 opponents. This reporter is writing about a $5000 donation that wasn’t accepted. Meanwhile, our governor is giving $115,000,000 of our money to the worlds largest hedge fund to build a building in Stamford which has several vacant office buildings large enough to house their operations. Might want to look into that just a little bit, no?

  3. dc2

    @Bryan – and the Guv sealed the hedge fund deal as if were nothing, as if reasonable explanation is not necessary, as if no one would notice,as if it makes complete sense, and as if he is ENTITLED to do so. A fait accompli of the state’s very own all powerful wizard….I can only hope that when Mr. Cafero is guv, he will REMEMBER not to cater to the hedge funds who hold us hostage in exchange for hedge fund jobs….

  4. 0ldtimer

    Sorry, Larry, but the only difference I can see between this and the “bribe” that unseated Donnie Sellers was that you were sophisticated enough to have an assistant guide Cousy through the process to make this look like a five legitimate campaign contributions. Fact remains he gave and you accepted.
    Wouldn’t it have been better to just turn down the $5,000 ?

  5. Mr Norwalk Ct

    I know Larry to be a good and honorable man. I may not agree with his political view but that doesn’t chage my view of him being a stand up honest guy.

  6. M. Murray

    I hope your kidding old timer. Every politician accepts donations from business groups, unions, political action committees and individuals hoping to either persuade them to vote in their favor or in appreciation for their support of a particular legislative view. That is how they finance their campaigns. The point of banning cash donations is to prevent individual politicians from receiving undocumented funds which the politician can put into his pocket. Larry did the proper thing by turning down the cash, and if this individual still wanted to contribute to the campaign in a legitimate fashion he is free to do so. Larry should be commended for making sure any donation was legitimately given to his campaign and not as a bribe. It is interesting that the Feds chose to use this video when Larry followed proper procedure instead of breaking any campaign laws. Seems like a Democratic political hack job. I wonder how many other politicians refused to accept the bribe but did not have the video played for the public.

  7. Mr Norwalk Ct

    Old Timer
    Donnie Sellers that is a name from the my youth.. I remember him directing traffic on Main Street. He had a big smile and a wave for everyone. He without question was the first community police officer. I wonder if he is still in Norwalk.

  8. Broderick I. Sawyer

    Mark hit the nail on the head, Larry was never charged with anything.
    Larry is and always will be a stand up guy as far as I’m concerned.

  9. 0ldtimer

    M. Murray
    No, I am not kidding. After a clumsy attempt to leave $5,000 in Cafero’s office, in my opinion, that $5,000 was clearly identified as “dirty”. To arrange a better process to accept it, may have technically cleaned it, but Cafero knew it was dirty and should have refused it.
    Donnie got in trouble over a much smaller amount ($100 ?), in a sting intended to trap someone else, because he wasn’t smart enough to refuse it.

  10. M. Murray

    So old timer, I guess every political donation by a business, union, or people motivated to push a political agenda would then be considered dirty money? The only difference between the two is that te politician gets to pocket one and is untraceable and the other is traceable and spent on campaigns.

  11. M. Murray

    Frankly, I find it quite funny that a Democracic administration ende up having to arrest one of their own for taking a bribe and had to make a legal donation to a Republican opponent. Good job Larry.

  12. Publius

    From an editorial in the West Hartford News, 5/28/13:
    At around the same time over in House Minority Leader Larry Cafero’s office, “roll your own” intermediary Ray Soucy was talking to him about making donations to influence the legislation. Soucy wanted to put an envelope full of cash in Cafero’s refrigerator. To get around prohibitions on “fundraising” inside the Legislative Office Building, the Republican leader suggested instead that he have a staff member “clock out” and walk down the street with him to accept the cash.

  13. http://www.westhartfordnews.com/articles/2013/05/28/opinion/doc51a4b5ed16ee4499811239.txt
  • Joanne Romano

    Another twisted story by the uninformed vendetta driven lynch mob . Watch and listen to the tape and review the findings of the FBI. FBI has said Larry is innocent, not under investigation and did not take a bribe so who are you going to believe? once more lets put a twist where none is needed. Are you kidding me now? What part of this guy has a vendetta for Larry haven’t you gotten? Twist and turn all you like but the truth prevails and the FBI confirms!

  • 0ldtimer

    The FBI follows federal law and their agents made the judgement Larry did not commit a crime under federal law. Ct law on bribery is much simpler and Larry may not be out of the woods with CT law enforcement. Cousy has pled guilty to bribery, I believe, and was sent to Cafero to see if he also would accept a bribe. He stayed within the law by refusing $5,000 cash, inside his office or inside the building, but arranged for the cash to be converted to checks in five different names (straw men ?) and to be accepted as “campaign contributions”. He is a trained lawyer, and may have nothing to worry about, but, to the untrained lawyers among us, this sounds similar to, but worse than, the “bribe” that unseated state Representative Sellers. We’ll see what action the CT legal system takes, or not.

    M. Murray
    “I guess” is the right choice of words. When a well known lobbyist approaches a state rep. with $5,000 in cash, in appreciation for killing a proposed piece of legislation, alarms should go off, and did. Larry turned down the cash and sent an associate with Soucy, out of the building, to get the $5,000 changed into a more acceptable form of five checks, using names of other persons (straw men). The $5,000 was then accepted. If you have ever contributed to a political campaign, you must know there are strict limits on amounts and laws against using “straw men”.

  • Joanne Romano

    Old Timer, he specifically said he could not accept cash, where did you hear him say to go outside and convert it to checks?

  • 0ldtimer

    Joanne
    Are you saying Larry himself did not say he sent an associate to “clock out” and go with Soucy to accept the donation in the form of checks, outside of the legislative office building ? Did I misunderstand Larry’s version of the story ? I have known Larry a long time and he is a very likeable guy. It would be a shame to see him lose his position over this, but, it sure looks like he, at least, put his position and, possibly, his liberty at risk taking anything from a well-known lobbyist/fixer like Soucy. For the record, in direct answer to your question, I did not hear or see any part of the transaction, nor of the Sellers case. That in no way prevents me from seeing unfortunate similarities. Even good men make mistakes.
    You might benefit from reading both the Federal bribery statute (18 U.S.C. § 201 : US Code – Section 201: Bribery of public officials and witnesses) and the CT bribery statute (Connecticut General Statutes 53a-147 – Bribery: Class C felony)before you decide Larry has nothi0ng to worry about. Like you, I don’t want to see him arrested, but neither of us will be consulted when this story is reviewed at the state level.

  • Joanne Romano

    Oldtimer, I don’t see in any of the stories I have read that Larry knew there was cash in the envelope when he asked this guy to leave with the staff person nor have I read anywhere that he did anything other than the right thing by telling his staff member to take him off the grounds, return the envelope to him and educate him on donation protocol. Nowhere did I read that Larry knew this guy was anything other than a corrections officer who was coming to him with donations from his fellow corrections officers but knew he could not/would not take a cash donation in the face of illegal practices. People may not agree with Larry’s political views but anyone who knows him knows he is a trustworthy gentleman and I can’t for one minute believe that someone can dislike another enough to fabricate the truth as this reporter did and Mr. Soucy tried to do. I wasn’t there either, nor did I hear directly what happened but I did listen to the video and I did read the FBI’s take on the situation and they specifically said he did nothing wrong!

  • 0ldtimer

    Joanne
    We apparently did not both read all the same articles. The guy writing for the COURANT is himself a former REPUBLICAN state representative. We can both hope you are correct in your take on this story and Larry has nothing to worry about. My opinion of his ethics has been changed, yours has not. The further we get from when that tape, and the surrounding story, was revealed, the less risk there would seem to be. We can only hope, nobody wants to see a career destroyed.

  • @Joanne
    Kevin Rennie is not a reporter. He is a columnist. He is writing about what is going on from his perspective, not writing an objective news story.
    Rep. Cafero told me that he did not know there was cash in the envelope. He said he thought it was a clumsy attempt at a donation and sent Soucy out with a staff member so the donation could be done legally. The staff member then called him and said there was cash in the envelope, he said.
    “I said, ‘Please turn right around and return it,’” Cafero said.
    Soucy was then sent an email informing him of the correct way to make a donation, Cafero said.

  • piberman

    Gentlepeople:

    Why the obsession with charges by a self promoting Courrant columnist ? We can sure that if CT or Federal authorities have cause to believe Rep. Cafero acted improperly we’ll hear soon enough via an indictment. Until then lets give the benefit of the doubt. Especially to an individual who has served for quite a long time in Hartford.

    Lots of work to be done here in Norwalk.

  • Oldtimer

    Googling Cafero,bribery brings up several stories by various writers . none do Cafero any favors, none have admissible evidence information, but such stories never do. We can hope for a good result without agreeing on what would be good result. We’ll see.

  • M. Murray

    I just think it is awesome that Larry got the Feds to donate 5 grand to his campaign

  • Old timer

    Cafero says the $5,000 was returned as soon as the FBI told him it was their money, used as bait to see if he would take it . Sounds like it went back to the FBI. So Larry did not benefit from it.

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