Federal agents have arrested the finance director for the campaign of Democrat Chris Donovan, who is Connecticut’s House speaker and a candidate for the U.S. House’s 5th District seat.
Robert Braddock, 33, of Meriden, was charged Wednesday by federal prosecutors with concealing the source of some campaign contributions to “the campaign of a candidate for the United States House of Representatives.”
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut today said the office could not comment on who that candidate is. A press released issued by the office said the candidate is someone who is both currently serving in the state House and seeking election to congress.
The Hartford Courant, however, is reporting in this blog that it is Donovan.
A spokesman for Donovan did not return a request for comment today.
After his arrest, Braddock appeared before U.S. Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford and was released on a $100,000 bond.
David B. Fein, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, special agent in charge of the FBI, announced Braddock’s arrest today.
The complaint alleges that Braddock conspired with others to accept so-called “conduit campaign contributions,” donations made by one person in the name of another. It is a violation of federal campaign finance law for any person to knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person.
The purpose of the conduit contributions alleged in the complaint was to conceal that the individuals who were actually financing the payments had an interest in legislation that was introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly during the 2012 legislative session, according to a press release issued by Fein.
The legislation introduced would have deemed roll-your-own smoke shop owners to be tobacco manufacturers under Connecticut law, a designation that would have subjected these shop owners to a substantial licensing fee and tax increase. The legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding voted in favor of the bill in April.
The criminal complaint alleges that the potential enactment of that bill prompted Braddock and his co-conspirators to arrange a payment of $10,000 to the campaign, which consisted of four $2,500 checks in the names of conduit contributors.
In early May 2012, the complaint alleges that a co-conspirator who had helped to arrange the initial $10,000 in campaign contributions stated in a series of recorded telephone calls with another co-conspirator, who was an aide to the campaign, that he and others were prepared to make an additional $10,000 payment following the defeat of the Roll-Your-Own legislation. On May 9, 2012, the legislative session ended, and the legislation had not been called for a vote by either chamber of the General Assembly.
Several days later, on May 14, the complaint alleges, the co-conspirator delivered a $10,000 payment to the campaign in the form of three $2,500 conduit contributions made payable to the campaign, and one $2,500 conduit contribution made payable to a political party. After Braddock was informed by the co-conspirator the next day that one of the contributions was in the form of a bank check provided by one of the Roll-Your-Own shop owners, Braddock arranged for the check not to be deposited into the campaign’s bank account. On May 16, the co-conspirator and an aide to the campaign met at a restaurant in Southington. At that meeting, the co-conspirator provided the aide with a replacement $2,500 check in the name of a different conduit contributor who was not affiliated with any Roll-Your-Own shops.
“In his role as campaign finance director, it is alleged that this defendant conspired to conceal the source of campaign contributions to the campaign of a candidate for Congress,” Fein said in a release Thursday. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI are committed to investigating and prosecuting illegal behavior that corrupts our political process. This investigation is ongoing."
“This arrest represents the FBI’s commitment to the citizens of Connecticut that we will thoroughly investigate allegations of public corruption,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Mertz. “Combating corruption at all levels is the FBI’s top criminal priority.”
The investigation of this matter has included numerous recorded conversations, as well as undercover FBI special agents.
The charge of conspiracy to conceal campaign contributions carries a maximum term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Fein stressed that a complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.