At least two Republicans and one fellow Democrat have called upon Chris Donovan to answer questions regarding the federal probe into his campaign fundraising and how it may have impacted his role as Speaker of the House
The questions began Thursday when federal authorities filed conspiracy charges against Robert Braddock, Donovan’s congressional campaign finance director. The allegations detailed the feds’ undercover investigation into a scheme to funnel donations to Donovan’s campaign and the Democratic Party in exchange for inaction by Donovan on a bill that would have levied a heavy licensing fee on roll-your-own-tobacco shops. Braddock was released on a $100,000 bond. In a statement Thursday, Donovan announced that he had fired all the campaign staff involved with the allegations. That included his campaign manager Josh Nassi, who was Donovan’s deputy legal counsel at the Capitol before transitioning to the campaign.
The allegations throw the 5th Congressional District race into disarray, possibly providing openings for Donovan’s primary challengers as well as for the campaign of potential Republican candidates.
Complicating matters further Thursday, a Hearst report cited sources close to the federal investigation alleging authorities may be looking into other contributions and whether those were made in order to influence the legislative process.
Pressure is mounting on Donovan to answer questions. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday called the allegations “despicable” and urged Donovan to offer an explanation.
Donovan’s campaign released a statement saying he was cooperating with the federal investigation, but the statement did not deny having any knowledge of illegal contributions made in an effort to kill legislation.
“While I am encouraged that the Speaker is cooperating with the investigation, his position requires that he give our residents a full explanation of what he knows,” Malloy said. “Allegations like this not only damage a campaign or a candidate, they also undermine citizen’s belief in their government’s ability to carry out its responsibilities.”
One of Donovan’s possible Republican opponents, Sen. Andrew Roraback, also called for an explanation.
“Speaker Donovan owes it to all in our state to make himself available promptly to fully answer all questions relating to his involvement in the alleged criminal activity,” Roraback said Thursday. “Because these allegations implicate the Speaker’s role as the leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives and the public trust he is charged with upholding in that role, there can be no excuse for not answering immediately the many disturbing questions which are raised by these allegations.”
Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Republican 5th District candidate Mark Greenberg, said these are “very serious charges, and at the very least they speak to the issue of judgment and character.
“If it should turn out that Donovan knew about this activity, it is the worst possible breach of the public trust in a country that prides itself on free and open elections,” Cooper said. “To cheat the system is not only illegal, but unforgivable.”
Donovan’s Democratic opponents in the race took a more cautious approach.
“These are very serious allegations that we expect will be thoroughly investigated,“ Elizabeth Esty campaign spokesman Jeb Fain said. Meanwhile, Dan Roberti issued a statement saying simply “these allegations against Mr. Donovan’s campaign staff are very serious and we are sure the FBI will investigate this matter thoroughly. Our campaign does not wish to inflame any issues surrounding the investigation.”