Apr 10, 2014
11:47 PMConnecticut Politics
Ex-Connecticut Gov. John Rowland indicted on 7 charges alleging campaign finance violations
Disgraced former Gov. John G. Rowland was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in New Haven on seven charges, alleging that he attempted to conceal the extent of his involvement in two Congressional campaigns in the state’s 5th District.
Rowland, who resigned from his position as governor in 2004 and served 10 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges, will be arraigned in federal court in New Haven Friday afternoon. The U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut announced the indictment in a press release Thursday evening.
The indictment alleges that the 56-year-old Rowland devised schemes to work for the campaigns of Republicans Mark Greenberg in 2010 and Lisa Wilson-Foley in 2012. While Greenberg rejected Rowland’s offer, Wilson-Foley and her husband agreed to a similar scheme. Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty last month to federal charges and cooperated in the investigation. They are awaiting sentencing. They face a maximum of one year in prison.
Rowland, who was governor from 1995 to 2004 and a congressman from 1985 to 1991, was charged in the indictment Thursday with two counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation, conspiracy, two counts of causing false statements to be made to the Federal Elections Commission and two counts of causing illegal campaign contributions. If convicted on all counts, Rowland faces a maximum of 57 years in federal prison.
Rowland has turned down a plea deal that would put him behind bars for 18 months in this case, according to a report from Hearst Connecticut Newspapers.
Earlier Thursday, amid growing speculation about the next steps in a federal probe of Rowland’s role in the Wilson-Foley campaign, Rowland’s wife said that, “We haven’t had our day in court yet.”
Outside the couple’s Middlebury home Thursday, Patricia Rowland said politely that her husband was in New York City for the day.
“I’m sorry I can’t help you, he’s out of the loop until tomorrow,” she said as she stopped at the end of their driveway in her black SUV to get the mail. “It’s just everything’s got its process. We haven’t had our day in court yet.”
After a reporter and photographer pulled away from the bottom of the Rowlands’ driveway, Rowland on her way out stopped to speak further with the photographer, conveying that there are great qualities about her husband people don’t focus on. She said they are extremely moral, have good values and are “God-fearing people.”
“We built our lives from nothing 10 years ago,” Patricia Rowland said. “He’s worked really hard, he’s done everything by the book.”
Rowland said her husband has worked extremely hard to help people and many people just don’t know about all good he’s done.
“Our faith has seen us through many hardships in our lives,” she said.
Following his release from prison, Rowland worked as an economic development adviser for the city of Waterbury from 2008 to 2012. He was hired by WTIC News-Talk 1080 to host the afternoon-drive talk show. He stepped away from that show last Thursday, saying he needs to deal with personal issues.
Rowland, a Waterbury native, is collecting a $50,000 annual pension from the state. He has hired prominent Washington-based attorney Reid H. Weingarten, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP.
According to a press release, the indictment alleges that during the 2009-10 election cycle, Rowland devised a scheme to work for the campaign of Greenberg, a Litchfield businessman, and conceal it from the FEC and the public. Rowland drafted a “sham consulting contract pursuant to which he would purportedly perform work for a separate corporate entity.” Greenberg previously has said he rejected Rowland’s offer to be paid for campaign work through funds from a nonprofit animal shelter Greenberg supports.
Rowland also is accused in the indictment of bringing a similar scheme to Wilson-Foley and her campaign during the 2011-12 election cycle. Federal authorities allege Rowland worked with Wilson-Foley, her husband and others to conceal that he was paid to help her campaign by using funds from Brian Foley’s nursing home company, Apple Rehab.
Wilson-Foley and her husband admitted to paying Rowland $35,000 through Brian Foley’s company in exchange for work on their campaign in 2011 and 2012. According to the indictment, the payments originated with Foley and constituted campaign contributions, but were not reported to the FEC in violation of federal campaign finance laws.
Wilson-Foley lost in the Republican primary to Andrew Roraback, who went on to lose to U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.
The campaign worked with Rowland to keep the agreement secret, including using an unnamed political adviser to “mislead the public concerning the true purpose of payments to (Rowland).”
But despite the efforts at secrecy, the former governor’s work with the Wilson-Foley campaign first came to light during the race.
The Register Citizen reported in April 2012 that Rowland had been paid by Brian Foley in a “private business relationship,” but campaign spokesman Chris Healy, the former head of the state’s Republican party, denied that Rowland was working for the campaign.
Rowland’s role in the campaign also led to a FEC complaint by Wilson-Foley’s Republican opponent, Mike Clark, a former FBI agent who had helped investigate Rowland while he was governor.
Court documents show that the Wilson-Foley campaign was discussing how to handle the allegations that had been made public.
In an April 21, 2012, email, “political advisor 1” sent a text message to Rowland saying, “we have to disclose the legal relationship between you and (Apple Rehab) as a subcontractor. Brian, (unnamed campaign worker), (Wilson-Foley) and I have talked and we need to chat but call Brian ASAP.”
Also in April 2012, another opponent of Wilson-Foley, Mark Greenberg, told the Register Citizen that Rowland had proposed a similar scheme during Greenberg’s 2010 congressional campaign. Greenberg said Rowland offered “campaign consulting services,” and proposed that he be paid through Greenberg’s nonprofit animal shelter. Greenberg, who is running for the Republican nomination for a third time this year, turned down the offer.
After those allegations were made, “political advisor 1” emailed Rowland and said, “if you have anything to refute (Greenberg), I need it to start to f-ck this smuck (sic).”
In June 2012, the Register Citizen reported that a federal grand jury was investigating the campaign’s ties to Rowland and Clark’s claims.
The campaign also was the target of another FEC complaint, made by Ken Krayseke in May 2012. Krayseke alleged that Rowland used his WTIC talk show to attack Wilson-Foley’s opponent, Roraback, and that Rowland gave out Roraback’s personal cellphone number over the air.
That complaint was dismissed by the FEC in February 2014, according to documents on the commission’s website.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Investigation Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Liam Brennan and Christopher Mattei.
State Democrats drew parallels to the ongoing issue with Rowland and Thursday night’s Prescott Bush Dinner, at which former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was keynote speaker.
“Today, Connecticut Republicans are waking up to the same thing they did back in 2003: the felonious John Rowland’s friend, Jeb Bush, coming to Connecticut to raise cash,” the party said in a press release.
The party likened the events to the movie “Groundhog Day” — in which the same day keeps repeating.
“We’ve definitely seen this movie before, and we know how badly it ends,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said in a statement. “The CT GOP bringing back John Rowland’s close friend, Jeb Bush, on the eve of more expected felony indictments for Rowland only reinforces the fact that the Connecticut Republican Party is still influenced by Rowland.”
Republican party chairman Jerry Labriola responded to DiNardo’s comments.
“It’s a cheap shot from a Democrat party which is desperate to change the subject from (Governor) Dan Malloy’s mismanagement of our economy and the brutally high taxes we all have to pay,” Labriola said. “The Republican Party is focused on the future, and is committed to fixing Connecticut’s economy.”
“While there may be great fascination in this story, the fact is John Rowland has no connection to the Connecticut Republican Party, nor has he for over 10 years,” the statement read.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spokesman, Andrew Doba, also commented on the indictment.
“This is another sad chapter in a story that Connecticut knows all too well,” Doba stated. “Law enforcement should be commended for their diligence on this matter. Governor Malloy hopes for a quick resolution.”
The Associated Press and CT News Junkie contributed to this report.Ex-Connecticut Gov. John Rowland indicted on 7 charges alleging campaign finance violations