HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan's congressional campaign applauded an internal investigative report Thursday that found no evidence the candidate had any involvement or knowledge of an alleged campaign financing scheme, but some of his opponents said the findings leave some questions unanswered.
Tom Swan, Donovan's campaign manager, said the report is "consistent with everything Chris has been saying," referring to the candidate's repeated denials that he did not know or participate in the alleged fraud. Swan said the campaign believes former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy, who was paid by the campaign to conduct the probe, was fair and professional.Twardy told reporters that even though he could not interview several key people — including Donovan's former congressional campaign finance director, who was arrested in May — he and his team conducted a thorough investigation.
"We were really quite exhaustively searching things here, and there's nothing ... we saw in emails that indicated there would be a different result," said Twardy, a private attorney with the Hartford-based law firm of Day Pitney. "But again, I haven't been able to talk to everybody. So, there may be evidence out there that I don't know of. But boy, it would be unusual for me, based on my experience, to have any sort of large-spread conspiracy without emails or other written documents."
The federal investigation is continuing. Twardy said he gave copies of his report on Thursday morning to both Donovan's campaign and the U.S. Attorney's Office. The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.
Several of Donovan's opponents — both Republican and Democratic — seized on Twardy's inabilty to interview three fired staffers because their lawyers would not allow them to participate. They include former finance director Robert Braddock Jr., who was charged in May with participating in an alleged scheme to hide the source of $20,000 in campaign contributions connected to state legislation that would have raised taxes on "roll-your-own" smoke shop owners.
The others include former campaign manager Joshua Nassi and former Deputy Finance Director Sara Waterfall. Also, Twardy said a lawyer for Laura Jordan, a legislative aide, did not allow her to be interviewed.
State Sen. Andrew Roraback, the endorsed Republican candidate in the 5th Congressional District race, said whether subsequent legal proceedings in connection with Braddock's arrest reveal that Donovan did or did not know about the alleged illegal activity, "it calls into question the manner in which he is conducting his campaign and his abilities to give a kind of focused attention" required in the district.
Republican Mark Greenberg called on Donovan to suspend his campaign, saying "it leaves many questions unanswered."
"Unfortunately, the cloud of this campaign finance scandal will continue to hang over Donovan's campaign until the federal investigation is concluded," he said.
Democrat Dan Roberti also criticized the report for the "impediments to the investigation."
"Serious questions remain about the conduct of Chris Donovan's campaign fund-raising." Roberti said. "He needs to come forward and directly answer questions from the public and the press."
Swan said Twardy's report "speaks for itself," and the campaign was moving ahead.
"We are looking forward to moving on and talking about Chris' record and plan for fighting for the voters of the 5th Congressional District," Swan said.
Donovan is the endorsed Democratic candidate, but he faces a primary challenge on Aug. 14 from Roberti and former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty. In the Republican primary, Roraback, Greenberg, businesswoman Lisa Wilson-Foley and veteran Justin Bernier are competing for the GOP nomination in the race to fill the seat that's being vacated by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who is running for the U.S. Senate.
Twardy was hired to conduct an internal inquiry to determine whether Donovan was involved or attempted to conceal the true source of the $20,000 in campaign contributions and whether there was a quid-pro-quo arrangement regarding the "roll-your-own" legislation.
Asked about his objectivity, Twardy said he doesn't recall meeting Donovan before the probe and said he had contributed to one of Donovan's one-time 5th District Republican rivals, former FBI agent Mike Clark, who has since dropped out of the race.
"We felt Mr. Twardy's independence and integrity would not be able to be questioned by anybody in the state," Swan said.
Twardy said he and his team interviewed Donovan and 12 current and former campaign workers and legislative aides. They also reviewed approximately 140,000 pages of email
An accounting firm was retained to review the campaign's financial records.
"No rock was left unturned on this one," Twardy said.
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