Notes on a Scandal. Why Donovan is Doomed.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan’s response to the arrest of his lead fundraiser for violating campaign finance laws Thursday found the congressional candidates paralyzed by the crisis. While everyone who deals with Donovan is accustomed to his permanent state of befuddlement and inattention, yesterday was different. He started the week as the front-running, endorsed Democrat for the open 5th Congressional District seat. He ends it doomed. Donovan is finding out who his friends are, and that’s often unpleasant in politics when the incoming FBI missiles escalate.
If Donovan’s defense is that he did not know that people with an interest in a tobacco regulation bill were funneling money to his campaign through conduits, others around him will be asked if they did. The FBI will also want to confirm Donovan’s claims with top staffers in his campaign and legislative office. Some of these are the same people, and at least two of them enjoy close personal as well as professional relationships. Many with knowledge are young and without the resources to pay the hefty legal expenses that accompany a criminal investigation. It’s often cheap and cathartic to make a voluntary trip to the U.S. Attorney’s office to tell what you know. Something many are likely pondering today.
Thursday’s stunning developments gave the public a look at how other campaigns react to monumental political events. Democrat Dan Roberti provided a muted response. He did not want to inflame the story. The Manhattan and Kent Democrat has received many generous contributions from family members, so he may not be interested in drawing attention to conduit contributions. The Donovan story vexed Republican Lisa Wilson-Foley, highlighting her self-imposed trouble with political corruption. She’s had a furtive alliance with felonious former Governor John G. Rowland in her congressional campaign that included her family business making a convoluted arrangement to pay Rowland for consulting services while he was a “volunteer” for her campaign.
A few words on the mechanics of a campaign. Candidates love $2,500 contributions. It means the contributors are committed, affluent, and targets for more. Even if he was initially ignorant in their origins, Donovan had to have noticed though illegal contributions. He is notorious for calling contributors who made small donations and hitting them up for more–often in a tone that bordered on the impolite. At some point, an unaware Donovan would have wanted to call those contributors to thank them and try to squeeze more out of them. It’s how it works. If he didn’t, that would be a strange break from his practice. If he did, what did he discover and what did he do about it? Since Donovan’s not talking, others with the power to compel answers will have to pose the questions.