Michael Clark has a unique perspective on the campaign-finance scandal dogging 5th District Congressional hopeful Chris Donovan. As a former FBI agent, Clark has an insider’s view of Connecticut’s sorry record of public corruption. And as a former candidate for the very office Donovan is seeking, Clark also has a keen grasp of the murky world of political fundraising.
From that dual perch, Clark, writing in Sunday’s Courant, says he doesn’t buy Donovan’s claim that he was in the dark about a series of $2,500 contributions recorded by the campaign – contributions that federal authorities allege were illegally funneled through straw donors. The reason: savvy political players know better than to ignore those with fat wallets.
In a press conference last Sunday, three days after the arrest of his campaign finance director, Donovan said the complicated nature of Congressional campaigns means candidates can’t keep track of every contribution. “To date, this campaign has more than 8.500 donors,” Donovan said. “I know some of them. I’ve never heard of some others.”
That may be, but Clark said if candidates don’t know every donor, they sure know the names of those who give the maximum $2,500.
So how plentiful are those big contributions? Let’s break down Donovan’s donations, based on the most recently filed campaign-finance report, which includes receipts through April 24. That’s more than a month ago, and looser reporting requirements for contributions under $200 make it difficult to know exactly how many small donations there were. But as the chart above shows, donations for the pre-primary maximum of $,2500 are extremely rare, perhaps accounting for no more than 1 out of 100 donations.
Is Donovan likely to have been out of the loop on the 1 percent? Clark has his doubts. “Those big donors are contacted by the candidate, thank-you notes are sent and follow-up calls are made in the hope that a ‘meet and greet’ with other generous friends can be arranged,” Clark wrote. “To deny any knowledge of the identity of the maximum donors simply does not pass the smell test.”
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