Donovan gives $27,660 in tainted money to FBI

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan’s congressional campaign raised $149,715 and returned $27,660 in tainted money in the quarter ending June 30, a period roiled by the arrest of his finance director, his campaign said Saturday.

After returning donations made illegally by smoke shop owners or others who hid their identities by contributing through straw donors, the campaign had $570,515 in available cash as it prepped for a final push to a three-way Democratic primary Aug. 14.

“Clearly, we have enough money to run a competitive primary,” said Tom Swan, who joined the campaign as manager May 31, when Donovan fired three top staffers after federal authorities detailed illegal fundraising by his campaign.

As expected, the results are the worst quarterly report since the leader of the state House became a congressional candidate in May 2011. He had been averaging $234,000 per three-month period, but he was without a fundraising team for most of the final month of the quarter.

FBI agents arrested Robert Braddock Jr., Donovan’s finance director, May 30 on a criminal complaint accusing him of conspiring to hide the identities of donors. Donovan fired Braddock, his campaign manager and deputy finance director.

The campaign did not replace Braddock until late June, when it hired Molly Ritner, who recently was a deputy finance director for a congressional campaign in New Mexico.

“We’re optimistic,” Swan said Saturday in a telephone interview before a staff cookout. “We’re going full speed ahead.”

Donovan’s labor allies, whose political action committees have donated about $200,000, are standing by the former union organizer, but he will need to recover financially if he wins the primary and is to compete in November in the state’s most difficult congressional district.

He has one advantage: His fundraising base is broad, composed of small donors who can be repeatedly solicited. Some of the other campaigns have relied heavily on large donors who already have made their maximum donations of $7,5000. Donors are permittd to give a maximum of $2,500 three times — $2,500 for the convention, the primary and the general election.

In his latest report, Donovan will report an average donation of $79, Swan said.

Swan said the campaign turned $27,660 in illegal contributions over to the FBI, which had supplied much of the tainted money through two undercover agents who posed as business investors interested in tobacco legislation.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Braddock on Wednesday, alleging that smoke shop owners launched a conspiracy last year to defeat legislation that would increase taxes or fees on their roll-your-own cigarette business. Donovan has not been accused of wrongdoing.

None of the three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the open seat in the 5th Congressional District has released their full reports, which must be filed no later than the end of Sunday with the Federal Election Commission.

The report is the last full quarterly report due before Democrats and Republicans go to the polls in primaries Aug. 14 to select nominees to succeed U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, a Democrat who is running for the Senate seat held by the retiring Joseph I. Lieberman.

Swan released summary figures Saturday, as the campaign of former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty did earlier this month. Esty, who is on the air with her first TV commercial, reported having nearly $900,000 in available cash.

The third Democrat, Dan Roberti, had not filed his report or released a summary as of Saturday afternoon.

The only one of the four Republicans to file was Mark Greenberg, a self-funding candidate who has loaned his campaign about $1.5 million and had $800,000 cash on hand as of June 30.

He is competing with state Sen. Andrew Roraback, Lisa Wilson-Foley and Justin Bernier for the GOP nomination.