The Donovan Disaster

It’s difficult to know where to begin in assessing the news that late last week the FBI arrested and charged a senior Chris Donovan congressional campaign official with trying to conceal the identity of donors. In part, that’s because the tentacles of the case are spreading almost daily.

But it’s also because Donovan himself isn’t saying much. As pressure mounted for him to either step aside from his speakership or abandon his congressional campaign, he trotted out his new campaign manager to field questions. The candidate himself, however, was nowhere to be found (see video below). No exactly a profile in courage – and painful to watch as well.

As readers of this blog know, I have been highly critical of Donovan, but not so much for his ethics or his potential to engage in criminal activity as his wrongheaded governing philosophy and lack of ability. Donovan’s not terribly articulate, he’s prone to making mistakes and is far too close to labor unions to represent me effectively in Washington.

That said, I’m going to reserve judgment on whether Donovan was directly involved in the chicanery. As others have already said, if Donovan sanctioned this activity, then he should be thrown in jail. However, if he did not know what his own campaign’s finance director was doing, then it makes him look out-of-the-loop and incompetent. After all, the finance director is one of the most important members of the campaign team – if not the most important – and $20,000 is not an insignificant amount in a congressional race.

I’m actually willing to believe the latter, if for no other reason than the fact that Donovan strikes me as a poor manager – not a crook. Like our current president, Donovan cut his professional teeth on community organizing. And as Barack Obama’s presidency has amply demonstrated, community organizing is not a particularly fertile training ground for first-rate managers. So I’m not willing to indict Donovan yet, as my colleague Matt DeRienzo practically has.

It may also be that Donovan is simply a poor judge of character, as evidenced by his hiring of Robert Braddock Jr. Or could it be that campaign directors are hard to find? Perhaps I can relate. I, too, was once in a position of having to hire people – teachers in one case and reporters in the other.

It was a bitch of a job. I was a department head at a third-rate boarding school. Trying to attract competent teachers who would accept low pay, long hours and dormitory life was no mean feat. When I finally hit upon someone I liked, I was almost afraid to check references for fear that if something ugly turned up, I’d have to start all over again and sacrifice yet more of my summer vacation. But in the end, I always checked because if I had hired a fiend or a talentless hack, I’d have far more headaches to deal with down the road.

Of course, even if Donovan is absolved of wrongdoing, it’s difficult to see how he survives this. His career in the General Assembly will be over anyway. Obviously, he’s not running for re-election. And even if he somehow wins the August primary, he will get trounced by Andrew Roraback.

Chris, are they looking for a mayor in Meriden?

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