Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign raised $149,715 this quarter and gave $27,660 in questionable contributions made allegedly through straw donors to the feds, the campaign said Saturday.
The allegedly illegal contributions were made on behalf of smoke shop owners seeking to defeat legislation detrimental to their business interests, according to the grand jury indictment of Donovan’s former finance director. The campaign gave the questionable contributions to the federal government.
The Donovan campaign has $570,515 on hand for the Democratic three-way primary Aug. 14 in the sprawling 5th Congressional District.
“We clearly have enough money to run a competitive primary and we’re going full speed ahead,” Gabe Rosenberg, Donovan’s spokesman, said Saturday.
The FBI arrested Robert Braddock Jr., Donovan’s former finance director, on May 30 for allegedly hiding the source of donations. Following the arrest, Donovan fired Braddock, Josh Nassi, his campaign manager, and Sara Waterfall, the deputy finance director. Braddock pled “not guilty” Thursday to the charges and Donovan maintains he knew nothing of the allegedly illegal activity.
Last week, the campaign hired Molly Ritner, who previously worked on a congressional campaign in New Mexico.
Without a finance director for the past two months, the campaign has struggled to keep up with their previous fundraising averages of more than $230,000 per quarter. However, it hasn’t slowed the number of donations being made. This quarter 1,623 individuals donated to Donovan’s campaign and the average donation was $59.33.
Initially, the Donovan campaign had said it would give any tainted money discovered during the federal investigation to the state’s Citizens’ Election Program, the state’s public campaign finance system.
“We made a choice to give it to the federal government,” Rosenberg said declining to elaborate.
At least $20,000 of the $27,660 was provided to the campaign by the federal government as part of the undercover operation detailed in the federal complaint against Braddock. The indictment released last week revealed straw donations from smoke shop owners seeking to disguise their identity that were not connected to the undercover operation. About $7,500 in donations were made by straw donors in November and December 2011 prior to the undercover operation which began in March 2012.
Despite the setback and absence of a finance director for two months, Donovan’s campaign continues to have a robust volunteer operation in addition to the support of many labor unions.
One of Donovan’s Democratic opponents, former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire, announced last week that she raised $340,000 this quarter and has $900,000 on hand going into the primary. Esty is already running television commercials. Dan Roberti of Kent has not announced his fundraising numbers yet. The deadline to report them to the Federal Elections Commission is Sunday.