National Democrats unhappy but publicly mum about campaign turmoil

Washington — National Democrats were already nervous about the congressional candidacy of Connecticut House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, and today’s events can only increase their collective blood pressure.

Joshua Nassi, the former manager of congressional campaign is among seven people charged in a federal indictment unsealed today in connection with the continuing investigation of Donovan’s campaign fundraising.

Donovan fired Nassi after the FBI investigation became public in May. Nassi was charged with federal crimes relating to what federal authorities say was a conspiracy to hide the identify of donors who wanted Donovan to influence tobacco legislation.

Nassi and another campaign worker were fired in May after the FBI arrested Donovan’s chief fundraiser, Robert Braddock Jr.

“Are we happy about the situation? No,” a House Democratic aide said Wednesday, before the today’s announcement. “But we can’t do anything about it.”

Donovan has been determined to stay in the race, which was considered a likely Democratic win before the scandal broke at the end of May.

“Democrats are very nervous about the race,” Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political report said Wednesday.

The Rothenberg report had already changed its rating of the 5th District contest from “Democrat favored” to “lean Democratic” after Braddock’s arrest.

And David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report said Thursday morning, “Donovan’s weakening is great news for Esty.”

While Democratic Party leaders may want to openly back Elizabeth Esty or Dan Roberti, who are both challenging Donovan in the Aug. 14 primary, thus far they have scrupulously shown no preference in the race.

The only member of the Connecticut delegation who has commented publicly on the turmoil in the Donovan campaign is Rep. Chris Murphy, who holds the 5th Congressional District seat Donovan is seeking and who is vying for the Senate seat of the retiring Joseph Lieberman.

On Fox CT’s “The Real Story” on July 13, Murphy said, “I do trust Chris Donovan, and I believe him that this was an incident of a rogue campaign staffer.”

A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Thursday declined to comment on the latest arrests.

Nat Sillin, spokesman for the National Republican National Committee, said national Democrats are not coming to Donovan’s defense because they view him as a failing candidate.

“National Democrats deafening silence on Chris Donovan’s ever-growing scandal is because they know their endorsed candidate’s chance are going up in smoke faster than a hand-rolled cigarette,” Sillin said.

The Republican Party spokesman also pointed to the kind of attacks Donovan can expect more of from his GOP rival if Donovan wins his party’s primary on Aug. 14.

“Either Donovan was complicit in these alleged activities or he was so disconnected from his own campaign that he is an incompetent manager unfit for federal office. Connecticut voters deserve to know which is it,” Sillin said.