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Chris Donovan Campaign’s Finance Director Arrested

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House Speaker Chris Donovan. File photo by WTIC's Matt Dwyer.

House Speaker Chris Donovan. File photo by WTIC’s Matt Dwyer.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP and WTIC-AM) _ The finance director of Connecticut House Speaker Christopher Donovan’s campaign for Congress has been charged with conspiring with others to conceal the source of $20,000 in campaign contributions.

Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced that 33-year-old Robert Braddock Jr. of Meriden was charged Wednesday in an alleged conspiracy to accept “conduit” campaign contributions, which are donations made by one person in the name of another person.

Authorities say Braddock is finance director for a congressional candidate they won’t name, but Donovan’s campaign records show Braddock works for him.

Prosecutors allege Braddock and unnamed co-conspirators arranged two $10,000 payments, each broken up into $2500 donations, and funneled through four through other contributors to Donovan’s campaign for the 5th District seat in connection with proposed legislation this year.

Federal authorities recorded phone conversations, as they conducted an apparent sting operation, in which an undercover agent posed as a smoke shop owner who wanted to make illegal campaign contributions to House speaker Donovan’s congressional campaign.

In one conversation, an unnamed conspirator said “Last time one of these [expletive] drug addicts  bounced a check, even though we put the [expletive] money right in their hand.”

Braddock said he would stay on top of it.

The conspirator said “I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of my future congressman.”

He was referring to Donovan.

Frank J. Riccio II, Braddock’s lawyer, said his client is innocent and the evidence will prove it.

“I am cooperating fully with the investigation, which is on-going, as is my campaign,” Donovan said in a written statement from his campaign. “The campaign employees allegedly involved have been terminated, and the leadership of the campaign has changed.

“Tom Swan is joining the campaign, as campaign manager, effective immediately,” Donovan wrote.

Swan is the executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. He previously worked as campaign manager for Ned Lamont, in a failed 2006 senate bid.

“The buck stops with the candidate,” said 5th District Republican Congressional Candidate Andrew Roraback.

Roraback said he wants to know if the Democratic candidate knew about the activity.

“The candidate has a responsibility to make sure that people who are working to raise funds are always doing so consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the law.”

Roraback said he does not know why the roll-your-own bill never came up for a vote in the House.

“The speaker exercises absolute control over the calendar in the House of Representatives,” Roraback said. “If the speaker does not wish for a bill to be called, the bill is not called [for a vote].”

As the top Senate Republican on the Finance Committee which handled the roll-your-own tobacco bill, Roraback opposed the measure. He says he never asked for — and never received — any campaign contributions connected to the bill.

“These are very serious allegations that we expect will be thoroughly investigated,” said rival Democratic fifth district candidate Elizabeth Esty Campaign spokesperson Jeb Fain.

Donovan didn’t immediately return a message. A phone number for Braddock wasn’t immediately available.

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