Donovan gives sigh of relief after independent investigation

Meriden — Christopher Donovan told reporters he feels vindicated now that an independent investigator has cleared him of using his position as speaker of the state House of Representatives to raise money for his congressional bid.

“We are moving on from this,” said Donovan, who is seeking the Democratic nomination from the 5th Congressional District. Donovan spoke at a press conference Thursday evening at an Independence Day celebration at Hubbard Park.

Former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy announced earlier in the day that his investigation showed that Donovan did not kill tobacco-related legislation in exchange for campaign donations.

Donovan’s campaign retained Twardy, a Republican, shortly after news broke that the FBI was charging its former campaign finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., with illegally concealing the source of $20,000 in contributions. The donations allegedly were given in exchange for help in quashing a bill that would have classified smoke shops with roll-your-own cigarette machines as cigarette manufacturers, a reclassification that would have forced them to pay a $5,200 annual fee.

Although Donovan answered questions from the media for about 10 minutes Thursday evening, a number of questions went unanswered.

“No, I’m not going to talk about that,” he responded, when asked about Ray Soucy, a state correction officer and former union official who is a key figure in the federal criminal investigation. Sources have named Soucy as the unnamed co-conspirator alleged in an FBI affidavit to have arranged illegal campaign contributions.

“I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” Donovan said.

Nor would he talk about how much he paid for the independent investigation or what was discussed during his meeting last fall with shop owners of roll-your-own tobacco shops.

“Again, I am not going to go about talking about that meeting. It was investigated by Attorney Twardy, and he said there was no problem.”

Instead, Donovan gave every indication of moving on as he handed out American flags and introduced himself to Meriden residents while letting them know what he’s accomplished.

“We have tackled some of the most important legislation in the country,” he told reporters before heading into the crowd. “I think I’ve been a very effective manager.”

After news of this federal investigation, Donovan’s opponents have said that, at a minimum, Donovan is guilty of not properly overseeing his campaign and asking questions about the source of $20,000 in donations.

Donovan said that has all changed. He told reporters he plans to be much more involved in his campaign’s fundraising operations.

“I am paying attention to it and I’ve hired staff that I trust,” he said. “We are checking everything triply, doubly, to make sure it works. But again, I am not the best fundraiser in the world. That’s not my forte. My forte is legislation.”

In his report, Twardy said all three fired staffers refused to be interviewed on the advice of counsel. The investigation also was blocked in one other attempted interview — state House Democratic Caucus attorney Laura Jordan, who also declined on the advice of counsel, Twardy said.

As an independent investigator, Twardy could not compel parties to participate in interviews. He also said that no transcripts were prepared when Donovan and others were interviewed, though Twardy said he would share his findings with federal investigators.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not named Donovan as a subject of its investigation, only his former finance director. But the candidate said he hopes the federal investigation clear his name before the election in November.

“Certainly we would like that,” he said.