Thirty-six people, including three sitting lawmakers, could be called as potential witnesses next week in the trial of former House Speaker Chris Donovan’s campaign finance director.
Robert Braddock Jr., the former congressional campaign finance director, pleaded not guilty last summer to corruption charges. Braddock was charged with three counts of conspiring to hide the source of $27,500 in campaign donations to Donovan on behalf of a group of smoke shop owners looking to defeat legislation. His trial will start Monday at 9 a.m. in U.S. District Court in New Haven.
House Majority Leader Joseph Aresimowicz, D-Berlin; House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk; and Rep. Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, co-chairwoman of the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee, all received notice three weeks ago that they may be called to testify. As of Friday afternoon, at least two of the lawmakers have received no other notices from federal prosecutors. The other was not immediately available for comment.
Cafero is the only Republican lawmaker on the list. Last year, when Cafero was one of a dozen lawmakers interviewed by the FBI he learned that straw donors delivered five $1,000 checks to three House Republican PACs. The checks were promptly returned.
In addition to the sitting lawmakers several former Donovan staffers, who are currently working at the state Capitol are also on the list.
Gus Melita, a clerk for the Labor Committee, and Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, who both worked on Donovan’s congressional campaign, made the list. Also Christopher Wetzel, a budget analyst for the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, is on the list along with some of seven other men who have pleaded guilty to charges they conspired to make false statements to the Federal Elections Commission. Wetzel could be called to give information about the roll-your-own legislation since revenue services is his area of budget expertise.
Josh Nassi, Donovan’s campaign manager, who pleaded guilty last month to one charge of conspiracy to make a false statement to the Federal Elections Commission is on the list, along with his former girlfriend, Laura Jordan.
Jordan, who now works at the state Treasurer’s office, was Donovan’s top legal adviser in the speaker’s office. She and Donovan have never been charged. But Donovan’s name is also on the list as a potential witness.
Former Sen. Eileen Daily of Westbrook may also be called as a witness. Daily co-chaired the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee with Widlitz before her retirement last year. That’s the committee that debated the roll-your-own cigarette legislation the smoke shop owners were trying to stop by making $27,500 in donations to Donovan’s congressional campaign. The legislation became necessary when a judge failed to rule in favor of the Department of Revenue Services and proclaim that the roll-your-own tobacco shops were “manufacturers.”
The Department of Revenue Services sought a legislative solution to close what they viewed as a tax loophole that essentially put the roll-your-own tobacco shops out of business.
For a building that likes rumors and gossip there’s been little concern expressed about the upcoming trial.
Capitol sources say there’s not much concern or nervousness being expressed in the building. A marked difference from last summer when lawmakers were patting their colleagues and lobbyists on the back jokingly checking for wires as they debated bill that included the roll-your-own tobacco legislation.