Rep. Linda Sanchez of California, whose husband has been indicted on criminal charges in Connecticut, pulled her name from consideration for a top House leadership post Thursday.
Sanchez (D-Whittier) cited an "unexpected family matter requiring my attention" in a letter to colleagues withdrawing her name from the running for House Democratic Caucus chairwoman.
Sanchez is married to James Sullivan, one of five people indicted Nov. 6 on theft and conspiracy charges in connection with $800,000 worth of trips to the Kentucky Derby and other locations using public funds without permission. The defendants are all linked to the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Corp., a southeastern Connecticut energy cooperative that has received more than $9 million 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 for the defendants and their families.
In a statement, U.S. Atty. John Durham said Sullivan and the other defendants used utility ratepayer funds 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 indictments were unsealed Thursday. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum five-year prison term. Each count of theft concerning a program receiving federal funds carries a maximum 10-year prison term.
The Norwich Bulletin, which first uncovered the spending, reported in 2017 that Sanchez joined Sullivan on the Derby trips in 2013 and 2014.
Sullivan is also charged in a second indictment with charging the cooperative for his personal expenses, including trips to the Derby and flights for him and Sanchez, between 2012 and 2015. It carries an additional charge of conspiracy and theft concerning a program receiving federal funds
Sanchez and Sullivan married in 2009. Sullivan has his own government and public relations consulting firm, JMS Consulting. He has not spoken publicly about the charges.
Each of the five defendants pleaded not guilty Thursday and was released on $100,000 bond.
After the charges became public, Sanchez released a statement 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.”
Sanchez, currently vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, entered the race for the leadership post in July. House members will choose a new caucus leader after Thanksgiving.