The federal indictments are piling up but Chris Donovan, who is running for Congress, maintained Thursday that he had no knowledge that some members of his campaign staff were seeking to trade his influence as house speaker for campaign donations.
Donovan appeared at the State Capitol on Thursday afternoon to make a brief, prepared statement and left almost before reporters could even ask a question.
In his statement, Donovan expressed surprise that despite his “hard earned reputation for honesty . . . there are people who thought that they could buy my vote.”
“My vote is not for sale and it never has been,” Donovan said.
Donovan reiterated that he didn’t know some of the contributions to his congressional campaign “were illegal.” He said that was confirmed by former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy’s report, which concluded he had no involvement with the conduct alleged in the latest indictment.
However, Donovan supporters have privately expressed concern about some of the information contained in the indictments, especially those instances where indicted individuals allude to Donovan having knowledge of attempts to kill the roll-your-own cigarette legislation.
Tom Swan, Donovan’s campaign manager, said Thursday in a phone interview that he doesn’t doubt Donovan’s sincerity for one second and remains confident the campaign will win the primary and the general election in November.
“People have underestimated the breadth and depth of Chris Donovan his entire political career,” Swan said.
He said he’s “very comfortable” with his personal decision to manage the campaign at such a tumultuous time and believes Donovan will emerge victorious.
Donovan is in a three-way primary on Aug. 14 with former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire and Dan Roberti, a public relations specialist from Kent.
With 19 days left until the Aug. 14 vote, Swan said he’s “looking forward to victory.”
But Donovan’s opponents maintained that today’s indictments indicate he should get out of the race.
“Throughout this investigation, Mr. Donovan has hid behind lawyers and declined to tell voters what he knew and when he knew it,” Roberti said in a statement. “In a public-be-damned approach, Mr. Donovan has continued to promote himself as a viable candidate for a seat in the U.S. Congress.”
Roberti said Donovan needs to face the facts and get out of the race now.
Esty, the other Democratic candidate, didn’t call for Donovan to get out of the race but called the new indictment “disturbing.”
“The indictment not only describes activities that undermine the very integrity of our legislative and electoral processes, it places Speaker Donovan much closer to the alleged conspiracy involving his campaign,” Esty said in an email.
Republican Sen. Andrew Roraback, who also is vying for the seat, said it was Ray Soucy’s guilty plea that Donovan needs to worry about.
Soucy, who even got his own mother to act as a straw donor for Republican PACs, is the former correction officer and labor leader who helped coordinate the straw donations from the roll-your-own smoke shop owners, to the campaign.
“Today’s news of a guilty plea having been entered by Ray Soucy for having devised a scheme to bribe a public official together with the reported arrests of Chris Donovan’s alter-ego, Josh Nassi, and others connected to this scandal cannot help but raise additional questions about Mr. Donovan’s knowledge or lack of knowledge as to the conduct around which this scandal has developed,” Roraback said in a statement.
Roraback again called upon Donovan to answer voters’ questions.
But Donovan has a lawyer and he’s not talking about the investigation on the campaign trail.
Add the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to the list of those not looking to talk about the investigation that led to the arrest of Donovan’s campaign finance director and what impact it could have on the race.
The DCCC is typically hesitant to get involved with primary races, but some have speculated the controversy surrounding the federal investigation might prompt intervention by the national committee. But so far, the organization has been quiet on the primary race in what’s likely to be a competitive district come November.
Asked June 18 for comment, regional press secretary Stephen Carter said he was aware of the investigation that led to Robert Braddock’s arrest, but had little to say about it. Braddock is Donovan’s former finance director and the first arrested in the federal probe.
“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.
Gabe Rosenberg, Donovan’s campaign spokesman, has said the committee has done nothing to try to pressure them out of the race.
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.