Watching the Chris Donovan episode unfold from slightly afar, it is astonishing to me that so little curiosity has been expressed in the press about where this investigation came from and how it unfolded. That is a critically important question in understanding what has happened, but has gotten almost no attention.
It would be tragic if an excellent and unblemished 20-year political career were fatally damaged by a disgraceful dirty trick, only to find out when it is too late. And to this political observer, that could be exactly what’s happening here.
Some full disclosure from me. I am a good friend of Chris Donovan, from our days’ working together at CCAG [Connecticut Citizen Action Group] through our legislative service. Chris has been an excellent legislator and legislative leader, and Connecticut has led the country in many reform areas in significant part because of Chris’ determined efforts.
I support his candidacy [House Speaker Christopher Donovan is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat] and have been proud to contribute to it. That said, if he particpated in a scheme to block legislation in return for illegal campaign contributions, he shouldn’t be in Congress.
But how did this all come about? Where did this tempest come from? There has been no indication so far that there is a broader investigation of corruption. Why did the U.S. Attorney choose to undertake this investigation of roll-your-own tobacco in Waterbury? Why did the FBI take such an active role in posing as tobacco shop owners and offering money? Who benefits from this scandal? Is there any connection between the U.S. Attorney’s office and any other candidates? Are there connections between any participants and any other candidates? Shouldn’t we be troubled by the laser-like precision and timing of the indictments and arrests?
The big policy issue here is that legislative decisions and campaign contributions to federal campaigns must be de-linked, as they have been in Connecticut for state campaigns through our nation-leading public financing law.
But the narrower, yet urgent issue, so close to the election, is to understand this particular scandal more deeply. It behooves every reporter covering these issues to ask these questions — now, not later — and every voter in the Democratic primary [Aug. 14] to consider these questions as well.