By Jordan Fenster, Staff Reporter

Democratic 5th District Congress candidate and Connecticut Speaker of the House Chris Donovan has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from organizations with interests in bills proposed this legislative session, according to Federal Elections Commission filings.

Organizations like Zuffa PAC, the political arm of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s parent company, Zuffa LLC, and Indoor Tanning Association PAC have given Donovan’s campaign thousands of dollars as of the most recent FEC filings.

In March, the legislature’s Public Health Committee debated a bill that would have prohibited minors under the age of 18 from using tanning beds, and placed fines on indoor tanning businesses that allowed it.

Representatives from the Indoor Tanning Association, and other tanning-related organizations, submitted written testimony voicing opposition to the proposed bill, and spoke at a March 7 public hearing on the issue.

Other organizations, like the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Dermatology Association spoke at the same public hearing in favor of the bill, arguing the cancer-causing qualities of indoor tanning.

According to Donovan’s FEC filings, the Indoor Tanning Association PAC gave $1,000 to Donovan’s campaign in January.

The bill never made it through committee.

This year, the legislature also looked at a proposal to allow sanctioned mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts within the state of Connecticut (it’s already legal at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, but not anywhere else in the state).

On March 6, the Public Safety and Security Committee held a public hearing on the bill, and among those speaking in favor was Mark Ratner, who works with Ultimate Fighting Championship, the nation’s largest MMA promoters.

UFC is owned by Zuffa, LLC and, according to Donovan’s FEC filings, Zuffa PAC gave the Donovan campaign two donations of $500, one in September, 2011 and another in January of this year.

That bill passed through committee, and will soon be voted on by the State Senate.

Then there’s the eye doctors.

The legislature, as we all know, has been debating a bill to allow medical marijuana in the state. A representative from both the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Connecticut Association of Eye Physicians spoke in favor of the bill at a public hearing on March 7.

Between the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Connecticut Association of Optometrists, Donovan’s campaign made $4,500 — one donation of $2,500 from the ophthalmologists and two donations of $1,000 each from the eye doctors.

Any suggestion that Donovan could have influenced the progress or stalling of any of these bills probably ascribes too much power to the House speaker. Though he is influential, the legislative process is one that requires a village, and Donovan, House speaker though he may be, is not all powerful.

It’s also completely legal.

In the race for the 5th congressional district there are only two sitting legislators, Donovan and Republican Andrew Roraback — they’re the only two candidates in the race with any direct influence on the legislature. It’s worth noting that Roraback has received a grand total of $0 from non-party PACs.

It’s also worth noting that, had they been candidates for state office, Donovan and Roraback could not have accepted money from PACs.

Thanks in part to Donovan, an architect of recent sweeping campaign finance reform passed in Connecticut, candidates for state office cannot accept money from political action committees. It’s only because he’s running for U.S. Congress that Donovan is able to accept money from the eye doctors, ultimate fighters and tanning bed owners.

Email Jordan Fenster at Follow him on Twitter @jordanfenster.