Donovan campaign manager pleads guilty to conspiracy

Joshua Nassi, the manager of former state House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan’s failed 2012 bid for the 5th Congressional District seat, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to conspiracy charges, the Hartford Courant reported.

Nassi, 34, of Fairfield, was one of eight people arrested last summer following a federal investigation into campaign contributions and their connection to controversial legislation that imposed new fees on roll-your-own tobacco stores.

Nassi pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to cause false documents to be filed by the Donovan campaign with the Federal Election Commission.

The controversial measure, which died from inaction during the regular 2012 legislative session, was approved in special session last summer.

The statute defines any entity that has or allows use of a “cigarette rolling machine” as a tobacco product manufacturer. This, in turn, would require them to pay an annual fee to certify their business with the Department of Revenue Services, and contribute to the same public health trust fund cigarette manufacturers have paid into since a lawsuit against five big tobacco firms was settled in 1998.

The Donovan congressional campaign had concealed the identity of some contributors who had provided funds in exchange for assurances that the legislation would be defeated.

Donovan has denied any knowledge of those actions and has not been charged. The former speaker lost the Democratic primary for the 5th District nomination to former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire, who went on to win the general election.

“I am deeply saddened at today’s events in federal court,” Donovan wrote in a statement released Friday afternoon, and reported in The Courant. “I trusted Josh Nassi and he disappointed not only me, but also the people he served as one of my advisers.”

Others who have pleaded guilty to date in this case include:

·      Ray Soucy, a former state prison guard and labor union officer. He pleaded guilty to a campaign reporting violation and to fraud.
·      David Moffa, another labor union officer, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file a false campaign finance report.
·      Paul Rogers, co-owner of a Waterbury smoke shop, who pleaded guilty to fraud.
·      And Daniel Monteiro, who pleaded guilty to fraudulently contributing to the Donovan campaign. Monteiro contributed to the campaign knowing he then would be reimbursed as part of a scheme to hide the identity of the actual donor.