I was at a film festival in Great Barrington all day yesterday, so I’m a little behind on the Donovan mess. Some stray thoughts.
1. The most interesting question at the moment is: why did the FBI start its investigation? Because they heard something was rotten in the Donovan campaign? Or was it a set of much larger suspicions about the way money moves around in Connecticut? The fact that some of the sting money wound up in a Republican PAC suggests the latter.
2. Speaking of that, there’s a ton of missing information, and most of it is conversations. There’s no way $5K wound up in those PACs without accompanying conversations, probably involving specific legislators or their staff. A typical way that might work:
A go-between like Mr. Soucy approaches a legislator and says: “I got some people who would like to give you some nice donations.” Legislator: “I can’t take it. Give it to this PAC.” This is especially true if the legislator is participating in the state public financing program. The legislator will subsequently make it clear to the PAC where this money came from and that it should be spent for his benefit.
So it will be interesting to know what those conversations were, although nothing I have described above is illegal. In the words of Joe Lieberman: “What has been done legally is sometimes more disturbing than what has been done illegally.”
3. Donovan may not be able to continue for very long even if he is innocent. His ability to raise money is badly crippled, and the press is going to keep poking him on this.
4. The fact that he felt incapable of speaking on his own behalf yesterday is a terrible sign. It was decided either that (a) he would not be able to answer questions in a clear and confident manner because he has an actual need to keep things fuzzy or (b) that he is so unmanned by these developments that he would not be able to meet the public in a state of compusure. Or both.
5. Could Donovan be innocent? He could. A lot of it depends on the style of conversation within his campaign. Donovan probably perked up when he heard about the money coming from Soucy. But he wouldn’t have had any automatic reason to think the money was fishy unless somebody told him. In a lot of campaigns the conversation might go:
Finance director (or campaign manager): Hey, Ray Soucy brought in ten grand yesterday.
Candidate: Really? About time Ray found us something! Anybody I need to thank?
With most campaign contributions, the future consideration you (the candidate) owe the donor is implied rather than openly stated. What makes this a little or maybe a lot different is (a) the “favor” was needed immediately rather than down the road and (b) it was a sting, so Soucy and his FBI contact had every reason to put a quid pro quo right on the table in as many ways as possible.
6. This is a larger discussion, but I regard the arrival of Tom Swan on the scene as the final nail in the coffin of the original vision of CCAG. Its progenitors Ralph Nader and Toby Moffet and its early leaders Marc Caplan and Miles Rapoport envisioned a truly non-partisan, unaffiliated group that would push government on not-necessarily partisan issues like expiration dates for dairy products. Swan, in his time, has made it an auxiliary of the Democratic Party; and his own revolving door approach of diving in and out of campaigns has torn the fig leaf off in a very unattractive way.
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