Friday, June 01, 2012

Donovan, Still Kicking

It may be a little early to bury the corpse, though moments after the finance director for state House Speaker Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign, Robert Braddock Jr., was arrested and charged with hiding contributions of about $20,000, Governor Dannel Malloy, a former prosecutor with a soft spot in his heart for multiple murderers, threw a spade full of dirt over the quivering body.
Said Mr. Malloy in a press release:
“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.”
According to an affidavit written and sworn to by the FBI agent who facilitated the arrest of Mr. Braddock, the finance director ran afoul of a campaign financing statute that makes it illegal for a campaign to conceal the source of campaign funds. It is a violation of federal campaign finance law for any person to knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in another’s name. Mr. Braddock is alleged to have accepted roughly $20,000 from an investor in the tobacco industry, thereafter laundering the money as multiple campaign checks given to the Donovan for Congress campaign by dummy donors. The investor was an FBI plant who, for purposes of this column, we shall call Mr. Sting. The names in the affidavit, thinly disguised, have been changed to protect the case against Mr. Donovan’s finance director.
Were it not for the state’s insatiable thirst for more tax money to plug a hole in Connecticut’s budget, consistently in arrears, Mr. Donovan’s path to the U.S. House need not have been cluttered by unseemly charges in FBI affidavits.
To goose more tax dollars from tobacco connected businesses, the Democratic dominated legislature passed a bill months ago levying a tax on roll-your-own tobacco shops, the well having run dry after Mr. Malloy and the Democrats passed the largest tax increase in state history. On behalf of state Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan, Attorney General George Jepsen sought an injunction against Tracey’s Smoke Shop and Tobacco LLC for the illegal manufacture of cigarettes at its stores in Norwalk and Orange.
In February, a Superior Court ruled that the shops were not tobacco manufacturers and therefore not taxable entities under the relevant law. This judgment was little more than an inconvenience to Democratic legislators, and state tax officials promptly sought to overcome the judicial impediment though the creation of yet another bill that would allow them accesses to the tobacco shops’ piggy banks.  The new bill opened the door to aggressive lobbying. But, alas, the bill died at the end of the last session.
Increasingly in politics, bills that ought never to have been passed are used as instruments to generate campaign funds for politicians who, through excessive taxation and burdensome regulations, are able to obtain from government rent seekers transfers of campaign cash into their own coffers in return for political favors. In this game of thrones, everyone wins but taxpayers.
In the short time since Mr. Braddock was arrested, two newspapers have called upon Mr. Donovan to make himself available for questions. Good luck with that. One paper has urged Mr. Donovan to quit the General Assembly, and most Democratic legislators connected in any way with the now toxic bill that would pile additional taxes on roll-your-own tobacco shops have assumed defensive crouches. Mr. Donovan has announced he has turned over to Brendan Sharkey, a House member in line for the Speaker’s post, his responsibilities as Speaker, at the same time announcing he does not intend to withdraw his candidacy for the U.S. House.

Mr. Malloy has pronounced the “allegations” in the affidavit used to secure Mr. Braddock arrest “despicable.” It is, of course, not the allegations that are despicable, but rather the tax and regulatory environment that opens a hundred doors to political corruption. The crony capitalist is the natural ally of the corruptible money grubbing politician. Politicians and their staffs rush into temptations of this kind much in the way a young boy with two stomachs rushes into the candy store.  Hell itself will freeze over before despicable money seeking politicians condemn equally despicable quasi-socialist, faux capitalist rent seekers.   
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