Chris Donovan wanted to be a congressman. Now he's the reluctant star of a federal court multimedia show on corrupt practices, featuring a colorful lineup of bums and goodfella wannabes.
Donovan lost the congressional seat he wanted to
Does it seem like maybe something is wrong here?
Donovan's mess is bigger because his lame-brained crew got caught breaking the one rule in the otherwise freewheeling feces-tossing monkey house of American politics. You can take campaign money and then wire up government business to benefit the people who gave it to you. But you can't carve out an openly stated agreement to do that.
That's why Esty is currently living in a
A lot hinges on those words, spoken by Donovan to Ray Soucy, the case's thing-who-crawled-out-from-under-a-rock. Soucy is a former corrections officer and union official who went from low-wattage mastermind of a criminal conspiracy to arrested-and-therefore-cooperating informant to star witness at the trial of Robert Braddock Jr., who was Donovan's campaign finance director.
Soucy, wearing more wires than a surge protector, accosted Donovan at his nominating convention after a plan to tax roll-your-own tobacco shops died a quiet, ambiguous death. The seven people indicted in this case were involved in the transfer of money from the cigarette people to Donovan's congressional campaign.
The feds were hoping Soucy would catch Donovan admitting that he killed the bill. Before anything else is said, Donovan greets Soucy with "I took care of you, didn't I?"
Donovan's somewhat hilarious explanation is that this is an all-purpose salutation, like the famous speech in "Donnie Brasco" when Johnny Depp's character lays out the many elastic meanings of "forget about it." The thing is, Donovan is right. Politicians will take credit for almost anything. "How about this great weather? I took care of you, didn't I?"
Soucy, handling his assignment with all the finesse of a junkyard car crusher, tells Donovan his people are grateful, hence the $20,000 in contributions plus another $10,000 on the way, "for killing the bill." This completely spooks the deer and Donovan bolts off into the underbrush, saying, "I didn't kill the bill. I worked on the legislative side. I did the right thing."
Translation: "Are you wearing a wire or something?"
Soucy seems to be one of the very few people to have watched "The Sopranos" and yearned to be Paulie Walnuts. He is certainly one of the 20 remaining nonfictional Americans to use "10 large" to mean "ten thousand." But the net impression of the testimony at the Braddock trial was closer to "Bugsy Malone," the 1976 film in which children pretended to be gangsters.
Scurrying parallel to Donovan's circus was Larry Cafero, the Republican leader in the House. My colleague
Forget about it! Here is the important subtext. Nobody in these cases — including the Estys and including lower-ranking House leadership — is unfamiliar with the basic dynamic. You give money to campaigns and you get treated better than the chumps who don't. This is going to be very hard to change in federal elections because of the creepy, overreaching, legislating-from-the-bench Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
Meanwhile, in the immortal — and uncharacteristically true — words of Ray Soucy, caught on an