Former Secretary of the State Miles Rapoport wants to know why the U.S. Attorney’s haven’t given Connecticut residents any evidence of how its investigation involving Waterbury’s roll-your-own tobacco stores and Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign began.
It’s a question that’s been left hanging since the arrest of Chris Donovan’s former finance director at the end of May.
Donovan is one of three Democrats vying for the party’s nomination Aug. 14 in the 5th Congressional District, which covers the western portion of the state.
Rapoport, who has been watching the episode from New York where he heads Demos, a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization, is a Donovan supporter.
“It is astonishing to me that so little curiosity has been expressed in the press about where this investigation came from and how it unfolded,” Rapoport said in a statement Thursday. “That question is critically important in understanding what has happened, but has gotten almost no attention.”
Rapoport believes it would be “tragic if an excellent and unblemished 20 year political career were fatally damaged by a disgraceful dirty trick, only to find out when it is too late.”
As a political observer, Rapoport fears that will happen if the federal government doesn’t step forward to reveal what it knows about the case which started with a complaint against Robert Braddock Jr., Donovan’s former finance director.
That complaint detailed conversations between an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor in a roll-your-own tobacco shop.
That complaint and the superseding indictments offer up no indication about how the FBI was tipped off to the alleged scheme where smoke shop owners were using straw donors to funnel nearly $30,000 to Donovan’s congressional campaign in order to defeat legislation.
But there are still more questions than answer two months after the first arrest was made. In total eight people have been charged and all but one have pleaded not guilty.
“Where did this tempest come from?“ Rapoport wondered.
“Why did the US Attorney choose to undertake this investigation of roll your own tobacco shops in Waterbury, and why did the FBI take such an active role in posing as tobacco shop owners and offering money?,” he said. “Who benefits from this scandal? Is there any connection between the US Attorney’s office and any other candidates? Are there connections between any participants in the scheme and any other candidates? Shouldn’t we be troubled by the laser like precision and timing of the indictments and arrests?”
Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, declined comment.
While Rapoport sees an opportunity here for a broader discussion on campaign finance issues, he chose to focus on what he believes is a more urgent issue with the primary just 13 days away.
“But the narrower, yet urgent issue, so close to the election, is to understand this particular scandal more deeply,“ Rapoport said. “It behooves every reporter covering these issues to ask these questions—now, not later—and every voter in the Democratic primary to consider these questions as well.”