5th District candidate Chris Donovan insists: ‘I have done nothing wrong’
Congressional candidate Chris Donovan (center) speaks to the press in front of his campaign headquarters in Meriden on June 3, 2012. (New Haven Register Photo/Arnold Gold)
By Randall Beach, Staff Reporter
MERIDEN – An embattled Democratic Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan Sunday said he was “sickened” by the allegations against his 5th District congressional campaign staffers but he asserted, “I have done nothing wrong.”
Donovan held a news conference on the sidewalk outside his campaign headquarters that drew about 30 members of the media, who grilled him about details of the FBI investigation.
But Donovan and his communications director, Gabe Rosenberg, repeatedly rebuffed queries about the probe, saying they cannot risk interfering with an ongoing investigation.
Donovan’s finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., of Meriden, was arrested last Wednesday by federal authorities on a charge he conspired to conceal contributions to the Donovan congressional campaign.
Donovan noted he had quickly fired Braddock as well as the campaign manager, Josh Nassi. However, Nassi has not been charged.
Donovan also reminded reporters he has hired Stan Twardy, a former U.S. attorney, to conduct an internal review. The results will be turned over to the U.S. attorney’s office.
In addition, Donovan has hired an attorney, Shelley Sadin of Bridgeport.
But in the middle of reading his two-page statement, Donovan asserted, “All I can do is emphatically reassure the voters that I have done nothing wrong.”
Rosenberg, who spoke briefly before Donovan to explain the limitations on what Donovan could say, noted, “Chris has not been accused of any wrongdoing.”
Nevertheless, Donovan said, “as the candidate whose name and face are on this campaign, I did sign off on hiring key campaign staff. If anyone is responsible for those decisions, it’s me. And I regret each of those hires right now.”
Donovan began his statement by again noting “my limitations” on talking about the investigation. But then he said: “At no time did I know that anyone might have been trying to funnel illegal contributions to my campaign. No one ever made a deal with me as a quid pro quo.”
The U.S. attorney’s office alleges Braddock tried to hide the source of $10,000 in campaign donations, in the hope that a piece of legislation designed to tax roll-your-own cigarette shops would be stalled.
Donovan said Sunday, “Let me say this unequivocally: No one bought my involvement, my position or my influence on the ‘roll your own’ legislation or any other.”
He noted he had not been involved with that bill because it was a Senate bill which didn’t pass so it never made it to the House.
Donovan repeated his earlier assertion he will not resign as House Speaker. He said during the upcoming special session, he will continue to represent his constituents in the 84th District.
“I will not be presiding,” he said. “I’ve recused myself from anything to do with the negotiation of legislation that might relate to these issues. That’s the right thing to do.”
Donovan said he didn’t find out about the investigation until last Wednesday when “the FBI called me out of the blue for an interview.”
“And I was shocked to read in the news, the next day, that Rob Braddock had been arrested,” he said. “It was like getting punched in the gut.”
Later he added, “You want to know what I’ve been feeling? I’ve felt heartsick and disappointed. Angry too.”
But he said his friends and supporters know he will never “walk away from a fight that’s worth fighting. And I am not finished fighting to represent the families of the 5th congressional district in Washington.”
When Donovan thanked those supporting him, especially his family, he paused and seemed to choke up. “My family has been by my side every minute of this, and I love you and thank you for being with me.”
His family was indeed standing beside him as he spoke.
“There’s a terrible irony in all of this,” Donovan added. “For years, I fought tooth and nail for Connecticut to have the best public financing laws in the country. We passed them — and they’ve brought transparency and accountability to our state campaigns.”
But now, he said, “I find myself in this position, defending myself from what is just unthinkable. For the thousands of hours I’ve worked to guarantee fairness and honesty in the political process — and people in my campaign are accused of violating those values. It makes me sick.”
However, he added, “I won’t be surprised if these recent events result in the loss of some support from certain people.” He noted, “My reputation is on the line and I know it.”
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