5th District candidate Chris Donovan will stay as speaker of the House
Tom Swan, Chris Donovan's campaign manager says during Friday's press conference that Donovan will not be stepping down as speaker. (New Haven Register Photo/Melanie Stengel)
Chris Donovan will relinquish his role as state House speaker to Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey for the upcoming special session, but will remain in the office of speaker of the House, and on the campaign trail.
Tom Swan, the newly named campaign manager for Donovan’s campaign for the 5th District Congressional seat, announced during a press conference that Donovan had retained a lawyer and was cooperating with an FBI investigation into campaign funding allegations.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is alleging that Robert Braddock Jr., Donovan’s finance director, sought to hide the source of $10,000 in campaign donations, in the hopes that a piece of legislation, designed to tax Roll-Your-Own cigarette shops, be stalled.
Josh Nassi, Donovan’s former campaign manager, was let go along with Braddock, although Nassi has not been charged.
“Chris did nothing wrong,” Swan said during a Press conference Friday. “If I thought for a second there was a question about that I wouldn’t be standing here today.”
“He will not be stepping down as speaker,” Swan said.
In addition, Swan said the campaign has employed Stan Twardy, a former U.S. attorney, to conduct an internal review, the results of which would be handed over to the current U.S. Attorney’s office.
Swan also said that if there were any “ill-gotten” funds identified, they would be given to the Citizens’ Election Fund.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill issued a statement about the federal investigation, saying she has “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,” she said, also in the statement. ”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.”
Further, 5th District Republican candidate Justin Bernier said in a statement following the press conference that, “Chris Donovan should speak for himself whether or not he is guilty of corruption.
“Hiding behind staff shows a real lack of courage by this candidate,” Bernier said, also in the statement. ”If Chris Donovan cannot answer questions about his own campaign and his own votes, then he has no business representing the people of the 5th District in Congress.”
But, also in a statement, Senate President Donald E. Williams, Jr. and Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said they believe Donovan’s decision 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” the statement said.