Bravely, Rick Green, a Hartford Courant columnist, titled his exculpatory column on the Speaker of the House Chris Donovan scandal, “My Donovan Flip-Flop: Where’s The Proof?”
Mr. Green announced that he was “ready to believe Chris Donovan and the former U.S. attorney now vouching for him,” even though a red flag had ben prominently displayed in the partial investigation conducted by former U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy.
Mr. Twardy acknowledged in his report that here were holes in his own investigation. Because some of the principals involved in the Donovan scandal declined on the advice of their lawyers to speak to Mr. Twardy, he was unable to interview the finance director arrested by the FBI for having accepted illegal campaign donations, fired by Mr. Donovan, and two other associates in Mr. Donovan’s office allegedly involved in a criminal conspiracy to disguise the source of the illicit campaign donations, also fired by Mr. Donovan.
Mr. Green rushed his opinion piece into print on the same day a more cautious Courant editorial appeared in the paper for which he writes.
The Courant editorial noted that Mr. Twardy had included in his report an unusual flourish — “’No rock was left unturned,’ Mr. Twardy said” – and proceeded to point a finger at the red flag Mr. Green had missed:
“Well, not quite. Mr. Twardy could not subpoena records that weren’t voluntarily handed over, and he lacked the power to compel testimony. Their lawyers would not let Mr. Braddock, Mr. Nassi and Ms. Waterfall speak to the independent investigator. Neither did he interview any of the individual donors or other third parties. Nor did Mr. Twardy’s team have access to campaign workers’ own computers or personal e-mail accounts from which many did campaign-related work.
“No wonder Mr. Twardy said Thursday that there ‘could be a hole’in the investigation.”
Mr. Green noted, quite correctly, that Mr. Twardy had been unable in his investigation to turn up solid evidence that Mr. Donovan knew “anything about the wheeling and dealing his campaign staff was up to in the 5th District Congressional race when certain contributions were allegedly concealed in return for legislative favors,” indifferent to the “hole” that caught the eye of Courant editorialists. It is as if a man, focusing all his attention on the hole in a donut, should conclude that there is no donut.
As proof it was possible, even likely, that Mr. Dovovan did not know that his finance director had given the nod to a sizable and illegal campaign donation of some $20,000, a rae gift that in most cases would have entailed a grateful acknowledgement, Mr. Green mentioned that “Chris Shays’former campaign manager ripped him off for years without his knowledge.”
When committing his embezzlement – for which he was arrested, tried and send to prison – Mr. Shays’ campaign manager of long standing, Michael Sohn, certainly was not interested in tipping off his boss to the embezzlement. In the ordinary course of his business, Mr. Sohn very likely would have shared with Mr. Shays the glad tidings that Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so had contributed a sizable campaign donation so that Mr. Shays might acknowledge the donor’s generosity. As an embezzler, Mr. Sohn was doing just the opposite: Mr. Sohn was stealing from the campaign treasury and using the money for his own private purposes. Embezzlers are not generally anxious to advertise their crimes to their employers. But it is not at all extraordinary that a campaign director who has received a legal and sizable donation should toot his own horn to his boss or, at the very least, tell him that so and so has coughed up enough dough to be put on a Christmas card list.
Former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz was a genius in compiling just such lists, some say for possible use in future campaign donation requests.
Oranges are not the same as apples. Partial investigations yield conclusions that are subject to change, an eventuality recognized by Mr. Twardy in his own report when he acknowledged that some future interrogator might uproot information not available to him.
Mr. Green’s celebration of Mr. Donovan’s non-involvement in possibly illegal activities that have resulted in arrests and firings in the Speaker’s office is premature – which is not to say that that Mr. Donovan is black with sin. Mr. Donovan may very well have slept soundly as his campaign director engaged in the putative illegal activity described in rich detail in a sworn affidavit that led to his arrest, waking suddenly after the arrest to fire others associated with his 5th District U.S. Congressional campaign, a rude awakening indeed!
But, at this point, we simply do not know enough to know what we do not know. A serious FBI-States Attorney investigation in under way, in the course of which the principals who were not made available to Mr. Twardy during his partial investigation will be closely interrogated either in sworn depositions or in front of a Grand Jury or from a witness stand, if it comes to that. Mr. Donovan, on the sound advice of counsel, has steadfastly refused to answer any questions bearing upon the prosecution of… what shall we call this campaign financing hairball? The affable Tom Dudchik of Capitol Report some time ago suggested it might be called “Speakergate.”
Mr. Green’s conviction that Mr. Donovan was not in the least involved in corrupt activity is firmly held but dependent ultimately on possible skeletons the FBI may discover in the Speakergate closet: “Until we hear whether the FBI has more evidence – recorded phone calls that implicate Donovan or others are just one possibility – I’m going to believe Donovan and Twardy. Donovan is correct when he says the campaign ought to be about jobs, economic development, health care and the gridlock in Congress.”
One thing is fairly certain: If an investigative reporter’s position opens at the Courant, Mr. Green should be considered too eupeptic for the job.