Chris Donovan’s campaign says there are no inconsistencies between their self-commissioned “investigation” and the new federal grand jury indictment of its former finance director. However, page 15 of the indictment puts its candidate much closer to the conspiracy than was initially revealed and has led to renewed calls from his opponents that he should drop out of the race.
According to the Wednesday indictment, Donovan met backstage during the May 14 Democratic nominating convention for the 5th Congressional District with the man identified as “co-conspirator 1” and who has been identified in news reports as former labor official Ray Soucy. Escorted by an unidentified campaign aide, Soucy and Donovan engaged in a conversation.
It is unclear what was said and it is unclear whether Soucy was wearing a wire during the conversation.
Immediately following that meeting, the campaign aide led Soucy into a back room where Soucy then delivered $10,000 in straw donations. Three of the $2,500 checks went to the campaign, and one $2,500 check went to the Democratic Party. That check, written by Joseph Daddona of Wolcott, has since been returned by the party.
The indictment further says that when Soucy exited the convention hall he ran into Robert Braddock Jr., the former finance director was to be arraigned today in New Haven on the charges alleged by the indictment.
The indictment says Soucy and Braddock stepped into a quiet location and Soucy told Braddock he had “just ‘thanked the man,’ and that ‘twenty thousand was well worth it‘. . .”
Braddock replied “You’re the man,” according to the indictment.
In a statement released late Wednesday, Donovan’s campaign spokesman Gabe Rosenberg said, “Nothing in this indictment is inconsistent with the findings of the independent Twardy report.”
But the indictment puts Donovan in the same room with those who conspired to trade his influence as Speaker of the House for donations to his campaign.
Donovan’s proximity to the activity had at least one of his Democratic opponents calling on him to drop out of the race Thursday. Dan Roberti, who is running against Donovan for the Democratic nomination, said it’s a “sad situation” if 5th district primary voters are expected to cast their ballots without an explanation from Donovan.
“It is time for Chris Donovan to withdraw from the primary race for the good of the Connecticut Democratic Party and to protect the seat,” Roberti said in a statement. “He has hidden behind lawyers and never stepped up to explain how members of his campaign staff could have arranged conduit contributions without his knowledge. New revelations in the indictment show Chris Donovan just a breath away from the questionable activities of his campaign staff.”
Roberti said Democrats will lose the congressional seat if Donovan wins the party’s nomination.
The allegations come about a month before the Democratic primary where Donovan will face off against former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty and Roberti.
“It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that some would choose to once again play politics with a serious matter,” Rosenberg said Thursday. “Nothing in the indictment is inconsistent with the findings of the independent Twardy report and Chris is continuing his conversation with the voters of the district on the issues that matter to them, because he is the only candidate in the race with a proven record of fighting for middle class families.”
Former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy was the one who conducted the independent investigation released last week that concluded Donovan had no knowledge of the conspiracy.
While Roberti contends it’s in the party’s best interest for Donovan to leave the race, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has so far been unwilling to weigh in on the issue in a district that’s likely to be competitive come November.
Asked recently for comment, DCCC regional press secretary Stephen Carter said he was aware of the federal investigation but had little to say about it.
“This is a district that President Obama won with over 57 percent, and we expect to have a strong Democratic nominee who will win in November by standing up for the middle class and against Republican efforts to drastically cut Medicare while raising costs for seniors,” Carter said.
In a Thursday statement, Esty said the new details in the indictment underscore the seriousness of the alleged conspiracy.
“The activities described not only undermine the integrity of our legislative and electoral processes, they undermine people’s faith in our democratic system. But we can be confident that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney will carry out their investigation to the fullest and that our justice system will ensure that the people involved are held to account,” Esty said.
Shots were also coming from across the aisle Thursday from Republican candidate Andrew Roraback. After reading the 20-page indictment, the state senator said the events detailed read like “a bad B-rated gangster movie.”
“Sadly it’s not a movie script, it’s the text of an indictment brought by the United States of America against Chris Donovan’s campaign finance director,” Roraback said.
The exchanges of cash-filled envelopes while Donovan was nearby raise concerns, he said.
“There is no good answer for Chris Donovan. Either he knew about what transpired, in which case he is unfit to hold office, or he didn’t know about what transpired, in which case his absence of attention and lack of oversight begs the question of what kind of focus he would bring to his work as a member of Congress,” Roraback said.