Contributions from associates and friends of now-indicted garbage executive James Galante to the 2004 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman have sparked the interest of federal investigators.
Lieberman's bid for the White House took in at least $14,000 from Galante, his associates and their relatives in the fall of 2003, according to a Courant review of campaign records.
What's more, people familiar with the campaign matters say, the names of Lieberman, the three Republicans and about a dozen other Connecticut and New York politicians have turned up on what the FBI loosely refers to as a ``ledger'' that agents seized from Galante's office while investigating mob influence in the trash industry.
The so-called ledger, a subject of interest to a legislative committee investigating state Sen. Louis DeLuca, R-Woodbury, summarizes information provided to Galante by his lobbyists on fundraising goals set by a number of candidates, the people familiar with the documents said.
A Lieberman spokesman said no one knew of any irregularities or improprieties at the time of the contributions.
Galante was charged Oct. 13 with violating state campaign finance laws, based on a series of suspect $1,000 contributions in 2002 and 2003 to political action committees controlled by DeLuca, state Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury, and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Galante is accused of trying to disguise up to $38,000 in personal contributions to the three Republican candidates' political action committees.
``Bundling'' of contributions -- that is, gathering together the checks of several associates and giving them to a candidate all at once -- is not illegal in itself. It becomes illegal when someone uses bundling to exceed a legal contribution limit by passing money through third parties, who each write checks within the legal limit.
That is what authorities claim Galante did for the Republican politicians. He is accused of contributing as much as $15,000 to DeLuca's PAC, $15,000 to Cappiello's and $8,000 to Boughton's. The arrest warrant in Galante's case said he passed the money to the three officials in increments of $1,000 -- the maximum donation allowed by state law for a PAC -- through employees of his various trash businesses, their family members or their friends.
Now it turns out that several of those same employees, friends and relatives gave a total of $10,000 to Lieberman's campaign on Nov. 25 and 26, 2003, a Courant examination of federal campaign finance records shows.
The donors, from Connecticut and New York, included one of Galante's lobbyists and the lobbyist's sister -- as well as two former Galante employees recently sentenced to federal prison for participating in a racketeering conspiracy that Galante is accused of orchestrating through his garbage companies.
In addition to the $10,000 on those two days in November 2003, Lieberman's campaign received $2,000 from Galante himself on Sept. 30, 2003, and two more donations totaling $2,000 from Galante lobbyist Joseph Walkovich of Danbury on Sept. 30 and Nov. 14 of that year.
In spite of the federal interest in the Lieberman donations, no charges have been filed against Galante in connection with contributions to the U.S. senator's campaign for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
Lieberman's office has been contacted by the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office about ``the circumstances of the donations made to Joe Lieberman for President'' by Galante associates, Lieberman's press secretary, Rob Sawicki, confirmed last week.
Sawicki said that ``no one involved with Joe Lieberman for President had any idea that there was any impropriety involved in the donations made through Mr. Galante.''
``There were several people raising money for Joe Lieberman for President, and it is not uncommon for fundraisers to bundle donations from friends and family,'' Sawicki said.
``Those donations would never have been accepted had the campaign been aware of any wrongdoing in the bundling of those donations. If federal investigators determine that any laws were broken in connection with these donations, Senator Lieberman will donate the money to a charity.''
Cappiello responded similarly earlier this year when his PAC gave $15,000 to charity after it was revealed the 2002 contributions were suspect.
Galante Donors Gave To Senator
Lieberman Received $14,000 In 2003
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