Christine Stuart file photo
Donovan addresses supporters in 2012 (Christine Stuart file photo)

Former House Speaker Chris Donovan landed a job with the Connecticut Education Association at the end of 2014, and now he is trying to retire the debt from his unsuccessful 2012 congressional bid.

Lawmakers, supporters, and friends are gathering on April 28 in West Hartford to help the former state lawmaker from Meriden raise money to pay off his campaign debt. The event is being billed as a celebration of his 20-year legislative career.

“Let’s say thanks to Chris for an inspiring 20-year legislative career, heroically leading the fights for social and economic justice and help Chris retire the remaining debt from his 2012 Congressional campaign,” the invitation reads.

The price of admission ranges between $50 to $250.

Most of Donovan’s $144,000 in campaign debt is largely tied to defending himself during a federal investigation that led to prison time for both his campaign manager and finance director. The campaign manager, Josh Nassi, entered a plea deal while his finance director, Robert Braddock, went to trial and was convicted of charges related to trying to hide the source of $27,500 in contributions to Donovan’s congressional campaign.

The money from the roll-your-own tobacco shop owners was given to Donovan’s campaign in the hope that he would defeat legislation that would have put them out of business.

Prosecutors hinted in court documents that Donovan was aware of the conspiracy, but Donovan was never charged and he maintained that he knew nothing of the scheme. Prosecutors even took the unusual step of notifying Donovan’s attorney that they never planned on filing charges against the former speaker.

Unlike other forms of debt, former candidates have an unlimited amount of time to pay it off. The vendors who may have provided services but remain unpaid have no legal recourse to collect the debt.

For 20 years, astronaut John Glenn still owed money from his failed 1984 presidential campaign when the FEC finally closed his campaign with the debt unpaid in 2006.