Democratic legislator rally for Chris Donovan canceled to avoid appearence of conflict of interest
Chris Donovan celebrates with staffer Gus Melita as the votes come in securing his Democratic nomination for Connecticut's 5th Congressional District at Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School in Waterbury. (New Haven Register Photo/Peter Casolino)
By Jordan Fenster, Staff Reporter
The Chris Donovan campaign had planned to hold an event with Democratic legislators this past Tuesday, but cancelled, a spokesman said, to make sure there was no appearance of conflict of interest.
Chris Donovan, speaker of the State House and Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional District handed the role of presiding over the upcoming June 12 special legislative session to Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey after his campaign finance director was arrested and charged with attempting to conceal the sources of $20,000 in campaign donations.
Those sources, according to FBI documents released after the arrest of Robert Braddock Jr., had sought to influence legislation, intended to increase the tax burden on some tobacco stores, that will be brought up at the special session.
Donovan has said repeatedly, most recently at a Hartford rally Wednesday, that no one bought his involvement or influence on any legislation, but fired Braddock along with two other campaign employees, including campaign manager Josh Nassi, neither of whom have been charged.
The campaign’s new manager, Tom Swan, said at a press conference last week that Donovan would be handing control of the special session to Sharkey, but would be retaining the role of House speaker until his term ends and will remain in the race for the 5th District.
“We didn’t want it to look like Chris was doing something with legislators in advance of the special session,” campaign spokesman Gabe Rosenberg said. “The campaign didn’t want it to look like there was anything untoward.”
Supporters of Donovan in the legislature heard about the planned event — which Rosenberg called a “press conference with legislators to show support — but there may not have been enough lead time.
“I heard about it the night before,” Guilford State Rep. Patricia Widlitz said. “They kind of threw it together at the last minute.”
Zeke Zalaski, a state representative from Southington, like Widlitz, said he “didn’t hear about it until the day before,” but said a rally in support of Donovan, who he said he’s known for 20 years, “was a good thing.”
“I didn’t think it was inappropriate at all,” Widlitz said. “People really feel sorry for Chris.”
Rosenberg said that, when the special session is over, a legislator-focused event in support of Donovan could take place.
“You may see it after the special session,” he said.
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