There he was, looking earnest and working class in his shirt sleeves, hoping to somehow salvage what has become a Titanic of a political campaign, post-iceberg.
Christopher Donovan’s new TV ad has him talking about how he’s fired several top campaign aides because they’ve been indicted for alleged crimes. Those kinds of nasty things, like illegal contributions and influence peddling and bribery, are “what’s wrong with politics,” Donovan insists.
There is a certain ghoulish fascination in watching a politician with huge ambitions go down in flames. Think of our felonious ex-governor-turned-talk-show-radio-jock John G. Rowland (who’s now under investigation again for possible campaign hijinks), or Illinois’ poofy haired goofball of a corrupt governor, Rod Blagojevich, who is in prison for attempting to sell a U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Donovan is speaker of the state House, one of the top leaders of the General Assembly, and was the once-upon-a-time favorite in the hot race for the Democratic nomination in the 5th Congressional District.
Not any more.
Not since Joshua Nassi, his recently fired campaign manager and long-time aide and political advisor, was charged with conspiracy and a bunch of other campaign finance no-nos. Six others have also been arrested, including Donovan’s former campaign finance director.
The alleged scheme involved attempting to conceal campaign donations from several “roll-you-own” cigarette shop owners who wanted to kill a bill that would have placed new taxes on their businesses.
Donovan insists he’s innocent, that he never new someone was trying to buy his influence, that he knew nothing about the alleged involvement of some of his closest political aides in a corrupt plan to torpedo legislation.
The state House speaker, by the way, is exactly one of the folks you’d most want on your side if you were interested in blocking some sort of bill.
Donovan’s can explain that he didn’t know what was going on, but he’s going to have serious trouble explaining why he had these alleged crooks working for him in the first place, and why he didn’t know what his campaign was up to.
Newspaper editorial pages and columnists are calling for Donovan to step aside, as are his
Democratic opponents in the 5th CD race. His political backers (like liberals and union folks) have got to be feeling queasy and wondering what his chances might be in the general election even if he survives this month’s primary.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are once again pushing for some sort of legislative ethics investigation. “Some sort,” because Connecticut’s General Assembly has no ethics committee to investigation alleged wrongdoing by legislators.
There has always been fierce resistance to the idea of doing what Congress, for example, and any number of other states, have done and have a permanent panel to act as watchdog over state lawmakers.
“We don’t need that,” has been the watchword of opponents to a legislative ethics committee. “Connecticut already has some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation.”
And you hear that very same chant after every scandal, whether it’s a state senator taking bribes or state representatives peddling influence or legislative leaders accepting illegal campaign contributions, or lawmakers fooling around with pretty young interns or getting drunk and smashing up their cars.
Oh ya, why should we mess with tradition, here in our Land of Steady Habits?