A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted the former finance director of Democratic House Speaker Chris Donovan's congressional campaign on charges stemming from what authorities call a scheme to hide the source of more than $20,000 in campaign contributions.
Connecticut U.S. Attorney David Fein said the indictment details "an extensive conspiracy to corrupt the electoral process." He said his office and the FBI are continuing the investigation.
Robert Braddock Jr., who initially was charged in May in a criminal complaint, would face up to 12 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines if convicted on charges of conspiring to conceal federal campaign contributions, accepting federal campaign contributions made by people in the names of others and causing false reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Braddock Jr., 33, of Meriden, is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in New Haven on Thursday. He intends to plead not guilty, defense attorney Frank Riccio II said.
The indictment says the scheme began as early as November 2011, involving several owners of Connecticut roll-your-own tobacco shops who wanted to stop legislation subjecting them to new taxes and licensing fees that might be introduced in the upcoming 2012 legislative session.
The indictment shows that Braddock and an unindicted co-conspirator, or CC-1, who set up a meeting between Donovan and the shop owners, tried to shield Donovan from the scheme. Donovan, who the indictment says later chatted with the co-conspirator at his nominating convention, has denied any knowledge of the conspiracy alleged by authorities.
Donovan's spokesman on Wednesday called the speaker the only candidate "families can trust to never sell them out."
"He has always fought to reduce the influence of special interest and lobbyist money in politics, and he always will," spokesman Gabe Rosenberg said in an email.
One of the shop owners told federal authorities that Braddock instructed him and another owner "not to talk about a bill" when they met with Donovan on Nov. 16 to discuss their concerns because "there is always people following this guy around, watching what he's doing."
On the morning of Nov. 16, before the meeting, CC-1 also advised two shop owners not to "bring up any bills" during their meeting with Donovan because of "the men in black running around ... all the time," the indictment says.
The Hartford Courant has identified CC-1 as Raymond Soucy, a former prison union official. Soucy has not responded to repeated attempts to contact him.
According to the indictment, one of the shop owners told another to take a check for $2,500, the maximum contribution amount, to the meeting with Donovan but to "give someone else the money and they can write the check." Later, during a December meeting, that shop owner explained it was necessary to use conduit contributions to prevent people from drawing a connection between their congressional campaign donations and defeat of the roll-your-own legislation that could be introduced, the indictment says.
The indictment also shows that CC-1 told one of the shop owners that the plan was to first contribute $10,000 to Donovan's congressional committee, followed by additional payments up to $30,000 if they were "happy." Federal authorities accuse Braddock and co-conspirators of being responsible for $27,500 in conduit contributions, or 11 checks of $2,500, from November 2011 through May 2012.
Undercover FBI agents eventually got involved, meeting with CC-1 and one of the owners in March. The agents posed as investors in roll-your-own tobacco shops who also opposed the new state taxes. They agreed to supply cash to recruit and reimburse additional conduit contributors to Donovan's campaign.
The indictment says two months later, CC-1 appeared at Donovan's nominating convention, where he was greeted by a campaign employee, referred to as Campaign Aide 1, and led to a backstage area where Donovan approached him and "engaged him in a conversation."
The indictment says CC-1 was then led to a back room where he delivered a $10,000 payment in the form of three $2,500 conduit contributions to the campaign and one $2,500 contribution to the state Democratic Party. As CC-1 left the convention hall, the indictment says, he told Braddock he had just "thanked the man" and that "twenty thousand was well worth it. ... And another ten grand."
Braddock answered, "You're the man," it says.
Ultimately, the bill that would have imposed the taxes and fees on roll-your-own tobacco shops did not pass during the regular session of the General Assembly because it was not called up for a vote in the Senate. Lawmakers later passed the legislation during a special session.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.