Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Silence of the Lambs

Speaker of the state House or Representatives Chris Donovan is the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut 5th District. His former campaign finance director Robert Braddock has been arrested following a Grand Jury indictment on a series of charges involving campaign finance money laundering.

During an arraignment proceeding on Thursday in federal court in New Haven, charges were brought against other people involved with Mr. Donovan’s U.S. Senate campaign, among them former Donovan campaign manager Joshua Nassi,  Paul Rogers, affiliated with two roll-your-own tobacco shops in Waterbury, and union officials associated with the Department of Corrections.

Mr. Donovan appears to be weathering this brutal prosecutorial storm with a degree of calm indifference that has astonished some reporters and commentators familiar with other political corruption cases in Connecticut.

Leaders in the party of Jefferson, Jackson and Bailey, beginning with Governor Dannel Malloy, the titular head of the state Democratic Party, and including Mr. Donovan’s associates in the General Assembly, so far have not been sufficiently stirred to appoint an informal delegation of Democrat Party grown-ups to pay a visit to Mr. Donovan and suggest strongly that he withdraw from his race for the sake of his party.

Even within the Democratic Party, some are wondering -- why not?

There are two separate questions: 1) Was Mr. Donovan involved in campaign money laundering? Answer: We don’t know, yet. And 2) Should a politician whose campaign finance director – and now others -- arrested for campaign financing illegalities be running for the U.S. Congress?

Somewhat like God, the FBI doesn’t play dice with the universe; once they start a prosecution, it’s a pretty safe bet they’ve got the goods or will get them by squeezing all the singing canaries that come their way.

According to an FBI media release, birds in the cage now include Benjamin Hogan, a.k.a. “Benny,” 33, of Southington, an employee of Smoke House Tobacco, a Roll Your Own smoke shop with two locations in Waterbury; David Moffa, a.k.a. “Moff” and “Buffalo,” 52, of Middlebury, the former president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 387, representing employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction; Daniel Monteiro, 33, of Wolcott, an owner of a company located in Waterbury; Joshua Nassi, 34, of Fairfield [the former campaign manager for Mr. Donovan’s congressional campaign];  Paul Rodgers, a.k.a. “Paulie,” 39, of Watertown, a co-owner of Smoke House Tobacco, and George Tirado , 35, of Waterbury, a co-owner of Smoke House Tobacco.

So far, eight people have been charged in the case, but the FBI’s prize specimen may be Ray Soucy, a former state corrections employee and Treasurer of AFSCME, Local 387.

On July 24, Mr. Soucy pleaded guilty on one count of concocting a scheme to bribe a public official, one count of conspiring to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and one count of impeding the FEC’s enforcement of federal campaign finance laws.

While Mr. Donovan is not named in the FBI indictment, a conversation cited in the document between Mr. Soucy and Josh Nassi, Mr. Donovan’s former campaign manager, strongly suggests the Speaker may have been in the loop.

When Mr. Souci asks Mr. Nassi if the candidate (Mr. Donovan) was “good with this,” Mr. Nassi replies, “Yeah. I’m, you know, doing everything I can … you gotta just monitor this s**t all the time.”

That answer would seem to imply that Mr. Donovan approved a scheme to ferry illegal contributions into his campaign by means of proxy contributors. It is difficult to put any other construction on this telling conversation.  In addition, Mr. Soucy may have been wired when he spoke to Mr. Nassi and others, in which case the FBI may have in its custody other incriminating conversation not noted in its indictment.

Confronted several times by reporters in the course of his now underfunded congressional campaign, Mr. Donovan has refused on the advice of his council to discuss matters relating to the FBI’s investigation and prosecution of his former employees.

Possibly, the grown-ups in the Democratic Party do not yet feel that push has come to shove. If so, they are poor readers of the times.
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