Donovan Will Not Step Down or End Campaign: Swan

Donovan will temporarily relinquish his role as Speaker of the House during special session.

The day after the finance director for the U.S. Congressional campaign of state House Speaker Chris Donovan was arrested on Wednesday, Donovan's new campaign manager spoke with the media to state that the speaker will not step down from his General Assembly position nor will he end his campaign.

“Unequivocally, Chris did nothing wrong, and if I thought for one second there was a question about that, I would not be standing here today,” Donovan's campaign manager, Tom Swan said.

Robert Braddock Jr., 33, of Meriden, is accused of conspiracy to conceal the source of contributions to the U.S. House of Representatives meant to influence voting on roll your own cigarette legislation.

He was charged in a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to conceal the source of contributions to the Donovan's congressional campaign.

"We're fully cooperating with the investigation, which is ongoing, as is my campaign," Donovan told NBC Connecticut in a brief interview Thursday evening. "The staffers involved have been terminated."

Donovan said his former campaign manager had been fired, along with Braddock.

"The allegations are serious and we felt, Chris felt, it was best to get a fresh start," Swan said.

"Tom Swan is joining the campaign, as campaign manager, effective immediately," he said in an earlier statement.

Asked if he was questioned by the Feds, Donovan said, no and walked away.

Swan said on Friday that Donovan took immediate action when he learned of the allegations, terminated any staff alleged to be responsible for wrong-doing and is “fully cooperating” with the U.S. Attorney.

When asked if Donovan was a target in the investigation, Swan said, to his knowledge, no.

"There are no charges against Chris at this time," Swan later said.

Donovan has turned over responsibility for the special session to major leader Brendan Sharkey to avoid an appearance of impropriety.

“He will not be stepping down as speaker or end his campaign,” Swan said.

“The Speaker made the right decision today when he decided to turn his responsibilities for the Special Session over to Rep. Sharkey," Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement. "There’s a lot of important work to do between now and June 12th, and then on June 12th, and the Speaker’s active participation would have been a distraction.  In terms of what comes next for the Speaker, I urge him to give it a lot of thought, quickly, and come forward and speak to the people of Connecticut.”

It is not clear when Donovan will speak publicly about the investigation and Swan said he advised Donovan not to attend the news conference.

In a joint statement, Senate President Donald Williams and Majority leader Martin Looney said Donovan made the right decision to recuse himself from the special session negotiations, but called on him to do more.

"We urge the Speaker to immediately, directly and personally answer all questions related to these allegations," Williams and Looney said.

The campaign has retained Stan Twardy, a Stamford attorney, to conduct an internal investigation and any ill-gotten campaign contributions that come to their attention will be returned and Donovan has retained an attorney.

"These allegations are despicable," Gov. Dannel Malloy said on Thursday.  "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."

The complaint alleges that Braddock conspired with other people to accept campaign contributions made by one person in the name of another person, which violates federal campaign finance, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

During the investigation, several conversations were recorded and FBI Special Agents went undercover.
According to the Justice Department, the purpose  was to conceal that they were to finance an interest in legislation introduced in the state General Assembly during the 2012 legislative session that would have deemed Roll-Your-Own smoke shop owners to be tobacco manufacturers under Connecticut law, which would have subjected shop owners to a substantial licensing fee and tax increase. 

The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding voted in favor of the bill, Senate Bill 357, on April 3, 2012.

The criminal complaint alleges that the potential that that bill would be enacted prompted Braddock and people referred to as “co-conspirators” to arrange a payment of $10,000 to the campaign, which consisted of four $2,500 checks in the names of conduit contributors.

The complaint states that an initial $10,000 in campaign contributions was made early in May and an additional $10,000 payment would come upon the defeat of the Roll-Your-Own legislation.  On May 9, 2012, when the legislative session ended, and the legislation had not been called for a vote by either chamber of the General Assembly and that second $10,000 payment was received, according to the affidavit.

However ,when a “co-conspirator” told Braddock that one of the contributions was in the form of a bank check provided by one of the Roll-Your-Own shop owners, Braddock arranged for the check not to be deposited into the campaign’s bank account, met with the co-conspirator and an aide to the campaign at a restaurant in Southington and arranged for a replacement $2,500 check in the name of a different conduit contributor who was not affiliated with any Roll-Your-Own shops, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“In his role as campaign finance director, it is alleged that this defendant conspired to conceal the source of campaign contributions to the campaign of a candidate for Congress,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI are committed to investigating and prosecuting illegal behavior that corrupts our political process.  This investigation is ongoing.”

Braddock appeared in court and was released on a $100,000 bond. 

His lawyer said Braddock is innocent.

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