BREAKING NEWS: Donovan finance director arrested by feds; concealing campaign contributions alleged

6:20 PM The Courant unloads on Donovan...

State House Speaker Chris Donovan booted perhaps his last good opportunity to tell the people of Connecticut his side of the story in a campaign-financing scandal that threatens to consume both his congressional campaign and his high station in the General Assembly.

Mr. Donovan should have appeared at Friday afternoon's news conference and answered questions. After all, he scheduled it. Instead, he sent a surrogate - new campaign manager Tom Swan, who gamely tried as a stand-in. But Connecticut deserved to hear from the real deal.

The speaker's silence only stokes speculation that ill serves him and the state.

The sensational arrest of Mr. Donovan's campaign finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., for allegedly trying to hide contributions of dirty money to the speaker's campaign for Connecticut's 5th District U.S. House seat is close to finishing Mr. Donovan as a political force.

The speaker didn't help himself with a weak, tight-lipped initial public response to the jaw-dropping scandal as it went public Thursday. He fired Mr. Braddock and former campaign manager Joshua Nassi, of course. What else could he do?

But all he could manage by way of explanation was, "I am cooperating fully with the investigation, which is ongoing, as is my campaign."

After that statement, he was unavailable for questions. Then again Friday he was unavailable for questions.

The stonewalling is hardly sufficient to persuade anyone that Mr. Donovan was unaware of what the arrest warrant affidavit describes as sleazy influence-buying taking place virtually under his nose.

[...]

What did you know, Mr. Speaker? Speak up before your credibility is completely shot!

6:00 PM Dan Roberti released the following:

Mr. Donovan failed to come forward today to address the very serious charges that have been leveled against his campaign. While I welcome the news of staff changes and an internal investigation, I believe it is Mr. Donovan's duty to go before the public and the press to answer questions directly. Passing the buck to his new top aide shows a lack of openness and an abdication of leadership.  The voters want accountability from those they put in office, not surrogates.  Moreover, if the accusations made against Mr. Donovan's congressional staff are true, their actions were reprehensible. I have spoken out in my campaign against corruption in Washington, D.C. It is sad to see that federal authorities are alleging corruption in a campaign here Connecticut. Mr. Donovan failed to be watchful and responsible in the conduct of his campaign. It is time for him to be responsible now and step forward to answer all questions regarding activities of his staff and campaign finance.

The Donovan campaign responds:

It is disappointing that Dan chose to play politics with an ongoing investigation, in which he knows full well that there has been no accusation of wrongdoing against Chris. This is political grandstanding at its worst.

5:30 PM Attorney General George Jepsen released the following:

I am deeply troubled by the allegations in the arrest warrant affidavit that conduit contributions to Speaker Donovan's congressional campaign were made with the intent to directly influence legislation.  I commend the United States Attorney's Office for its action, and urge it to aggressively continue its investigation. Unfortunately, these allegations cast doubt on the integrity of legislative actions at the core of Speaker Donovan's responsibilities. Accordingly, Rep. Donovan has wisely chosen to recuse himself from acting as Speaker of the House during the upcoming special legislative session.  As the investigation unfolds, he will need to guide his actions by what is best for the people of Connecticut, even should that come at the expense of his congressional campaign or his tenure as House Speaker.

5:00 Senate President Don Williams and Majority Leader Martin Looney released the following:

"We believe Speaker Donovan's decision today to recuse himself from negotiations relating to the special session was correct.  The allegations regarding concealed contributions, however, are serious and disturbing.  We urge the Speaker to immediately, directly and personally answer all questions related to these allegations."

3:50 PM SOTS Denise Merrill issued the following statement:

"I have known Chris Donovan for 20 years and know him to have none but the highest standards of integrity.  The legal process we have all learned about in the last 24 hours must now be given a chance to follow its due course.  However, the allegations contained in the federal affidavit are very troubling and raise serious doubts about the integrity of our legislative process in Connecticut.  They also have a potentially damaging effect on the public's confidence in our elections.  Many of us have said for years that money has a corrosive influence in politics, and that is why it is imperative for those of us in government to continue to support clean elections and initiatives such as the Citizens Election Program that we pioneered in Connecticut.  In the meantime, I applaud the speaker's decision not to preside over the House of Representatives in the upcoming special session."

2:40 PM Video stream of Donovan's presser will start at 3:00.

Video via CT-N

Mobile devices: Apple | Android

2:35 PM Dan Roberti announced that he will hold a press conference, which will start at the conclusion of Donovan's presser.

12:00 PM CT Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo weighs in.

Democratic State Central Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo urged the public Friday to reserve judgment of Donovan until the investigation is concluded.

In a phone conversation with CTNewsjunkie, DiNardo said "people should not make assumptions about who was involved. From what I read Chris has no involvement in this."

House Minority leader to Senate Minority Leader: "Not so fast."

While McKinney is urging Donovan to throw in the towel, his House counterpart Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said it's "premature" to assume Donovan was guilty of some wrongdoing. However, he said the speaker needs to clear the air and answer questions regarding the allegations.

"I know Chris. He's always had respect for the institution but he needs to clarify these serious allegation and explain himself to the public," Cafero said.

Jun 1, 11:45 AM State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney calls for Donovan to step down.

State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney became the first state political leader to call for Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan to step down while a federal probe continues into his campaign financing operation.

[...]

McKinney Friday morning said Donovan should take no role in the drafting of legislation in the upcoming special legislation session to authorize the budget, set for June 12.

"The facts and allegations in the affidavit are a grave violation of the public trust and cast a pall on all of the legislative activities Speaker Donovan has participated in since announcing his run for Congress," McKinney said in a statement this morning. Donovan's campaign fund-raiser was indicted on federal charges Thursday in connection with an alleged offer to kill legislation that would create a tax on Roll-Your-Own cigarettes.

"First and foremost, the Speaker owes the people of Connecticut a thorough explanation. He must publicly answer any and all questions pertaining to this matter. In light of this damning evidence of corruption, he should immediately relinquish his role as Speaker of the House and have no involvement with drafting or negotiating any legislative language in preparation for the General Assembly's June 12th Special Session. Sadly, this is just the latest in a litany of examples of high profile state officials finding themselves embroiled in allegations of corruption. As we have done in the past, the legislature should convene a committee of inquiry to further investigate this matter and decide if the evidence of corruption warrants the Speaker's censure or expulsion from the House of Representatives."

"Finally, the Connecticut General Assembly needs to establish a standing committee on ethics as I have recommended since being elected Leader in 2007. Connecticut has a reprehensible reputation for misconduct among its elected leaders and yet is one of only two states that do not have a standing committee on ethics to investigate allegations of misconduct and determine appropriate sanctions."

Donovan campaign has scheduled a press conference at 3:00.

PRESS RELEASE:

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY

June 1, 2012

Meriden - The Donovan campaign will be available to comment to the press today at 3:00pm, outside of the east side of the Capitol building.

DETAILS:

3:00pm Today

Outside, east side of the Capitol building

According to the CT Post, Donovan will not be an attendance at the presser...

Donovan's congressional campaign has scheduled a 3 p.m. news conference in the Capitol, but the speaker won't be there to answer questions about the federal investigation into his campaign for the 5th Congressional District, aides said.

The beginning of the timeline is below the fold...
10:10 PM House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey weighs in

"I am shocked by the allegations contained in the Federal indictment. Sadly, they cast a shadow over the entire legislative process, and for that reason I am sure that Speaker Donovan will cooperate fully with the investigation. It is imperative that the investigation be thorough and completed as rapidly as possible."

9:30 PM The second shoe drops...

House Speaker Chris Donovan and his campaign staff are now the focus of the federal investigation that resulted in charges against his congressional campaign's finance director, a source familiar with the case said.

[...]

However, the source close to the case said the investigation is digging deeper into actions on other bills and whether Donovan had knowledge of these actions.

"As the House speaker the buck stops with him as to which bills come up for a vote," said a source. "The feds may have a problem with the way he was doing business."

[...]

It is expected that federal authorities will begin serving subpoenas within the next few days. The cooperating conspirator is likely to testify and the taped telephone conventions are expected to be played to the grand jury within the next few weeks.

6:40 PM Here's a copy of the affidavit.

6:35 PM Elizabeth Esty released the following...

"These are very serious allegations that we expect will be thoroughly investigated," said Esty's campaign spokesman Jeb Fain.

6:30 PM Governor Dannel Malloy released the following statement:

"I want to commend the US Attorney's Office and the FBI for their diligence in the investigation and the speed in which they've taken action.  Law enforcement is in many ways the first and last line of defense for our taxpayers, and when an announcement like this happens, we should all be grateful for their work.

"These allegations are despicable.  While I am encouraged that the Speaker is cooperating with the investigation, his position requires that he give our residents a full explanation of what he knows.

"Allegations like this not only damage a campaign or a candidate, they also undermine citizen's belief in their government's ability to carry out its responsibilities."

6:20 PM: Dan Roberti campaign released the following statement:

These allegations against Mr. Donovan's campaign staff are very serious and we are sure the FBI will investigate this matter thoroughly.  Our campaign does not wish to inflame any issues surrounding the investigation.

5:45 PM Donovan released the following:

"I am cooperating fully with the investigation, which is on-going, as is my campaign," Donovan said. "The campaign employees allegedly involved have been terminated, and the leadership of the campaign has changed. Tom Swan is joining the campaign, as campaign manager, effective immediately."

This is NOT good news for Donovan

Federal prosecutors said Thursday they have charged the campaign finance director for  5th District Democratic Congressional candidate Christopher Donovan with trying to hide campaign contributions.

Robert Braddock Jr., the campaign employee, was arrested Wednesday night, according to a variety of sources.

[...]

Although Braddock is clearly identified by his position and name, Donovan is not.

Rather, Braddock is described in the arrest warrant affidavit as finance director for a candidate identified as "Public Official Number 1," who is described as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from the state's 5th Congressional district and who is a current member of the state House of Representatives.

[...]

U.S. Attorney David B. Fein and Kimberly Mertz, who leads the FBI office in Connecticut, said Braddock, 33, was charged with conspiracy to conceal the source of contributions to the campaign of a candidate for the United States House of Representatives.

The complaint alleges that Braddock conspired with others to accept conduit campaign contributions, which are contributions made by one person in the name of another person.  It is a violation of federal campaign finance law for any person to knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person.

The purpose of the conduit contributions alleged in the complaint was to conceal the fact that the individuals who were actually financing the payments had an interest in legislation that was introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly during the 2012 legislative session, over which Donovan wields substantial control as speaker.

The legislation introduced would have deemed "Roll-Your-Own" smoke shop owners to be tobacco manufacturers under Connecticut law, a designation that would have subjected these shop owners to a substantial licensing fee and tax increase.  The Connecticut General Assembly's Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding voted in favor of the bill, Senate Bill 357, on April 3, 2012.  The criminal complaint alleges that the potential enactment of that bill prompted Braddock and and his co-conspirators, who are not identified, to arrange a payment of $10,000 to the campaign, which consisted of four $2,500 checks in the names of conduit contributors.

In early May 2012, the complaint alleges that a co-conspirator who had helped to arrange the initial $10,000 in campaign contributions stated in a series of recorded telephone calls with another co-conspirator, who was an aide to the campaign, that he and others were prepared to make an additional $10,000 payment following the defeat of the Roll-Your-Own legislation.  On May 9, 2012, the legislative session ended, and the legislation had not been called for a vote by either chamber of the General Assembly.

Several days later, on May 14, 2012, the complaint alleges that the co-conspirator delivered a $10,000 payment to the campaign in the form of three $2,500 conduit contributions made payable to the campaign, and one $2,500 conduit contribution made payable to a political party.  After Braddock was informed by the co-conspirator the next day that one of the contributions was in the form of a bank check provided by one of the Roll-Your-Own shop owners, Braddock arranged for the check not to be deposited into the campaign's bank account.  On May 16, 2012, the co-conspirator and an aide to the campaign met at a restaurant in Southington.  At that meeting, the co-conspirator provided the aide with a replacement $2,500 check in the name of a different conduit contributor who was not affiliated with any Roll-Your-Own shops.

Like I said, this is NOT good news for Donovan as there is a really good possibility that this situation could doom his Congressional aspirations.

...developing.

CTNJ has MORE!

An undercover FBI agent contacted Braddock in April posing as an investor in a roll-your-own smoke shop and scheduled a meeting with Braddock and "co-conspirator number 3", who according to the affidavit is an aide to the campaign. At the meeting the undercover agent gave "co-conspirator number 1" $11,000 cash so they could deposit in the accounts of donors who would then give it to the campaign. The undercover agent told them there was a little extra in the envelope for them.

One of the four checks bounced, but two of the unnamed co-conspirators who used their friends as associates said they would take care of it. The check was cashed and the $60 bounce fee was paid.

In early May the undercover agent again contacted the Donovan campaign and told them he had another $10,000 he wanted to donate through surrogates. On May 14 Braddock engaged in phone conversations with conduit contributors to accept the cash and make the donations-three to the campaign and one to the party.

Throughout the affidavit, "co conspirator number 1" refers to the conduit donors they arranged to write the checks to the campaigns as "drug addicts" and "drunks."

"I don't know if you know the last time one of these asshole drug addicts bounced a check even though we put the fucking money right in their hand," co conspirator 1 said during a recorded conversation with Braddock.

Following the second payment of $10,000, "co-conspirator 1" assured Braddock that their efforts to stop the roll-your-own cigarette legislation were worth it.

"Like I said, you know, it was a very good investment for us to kill that bill. And they want to stay friends for a long time," he told Braddock.

The conspirators briefly panicked when they realized one of the donors they had write a check was actually part owner of a smoke shop just as another campaign staffer was on the way to the bank to cash the check.

"You wanna tear that one up and I'll, I'll get another one?" co-conspirator 1 asked. "Or get that one back that's uh, that's a bank check so get that back."

"I gotta hang up with you right now," Braddock responded. "She's on her way to the fucking bank to deposit it right now."

Braddock then placed another call before calling co-conspirator 1 to tell him they were "all good."

At one point as they were trying to make sure they knew who contributed what check, Braddock told the FBI Agent: "Because I don't want to look like an idiot in front of my, you know, my future congressman."

The purpose of the conduit contributions alleged in the complaint was to conceal the fact that the individuals who were actually financing the payments had an interest in legislation that was introduced in the General Assembly.

If the allegations are true, I don't see how Donovan can survivie this...

origin Blog: 
origin Author: 
Showing 0 comments