Federal Grand Jury Indicts Rowland on 7 Counts; Former Gov Reportedly Turned Down 18-Month Plea Deal
(Updated 8 p.m.) A federal grand jury in New Haven indicted former Gov. John G. Rowland on Thursday, charging him with attempting to conceal the extent of his involvement in two federal election campaigns in the 5th Congressional District.
Rowland, 56, is expected to be arraigned at U.S. District Court in New Haven on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
The indictments follow revelations two weeks ago in which Rowland was implicated in a 2012 campaign finance scheme involving the 5th Congressional District election campaign. Former Republican candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty to federal charges and said they had illegally paid Rowland $35,000 in campaign consulting fees without reporting the payments to the Federal Election Commission.
Thursday’s indictment outlines Rowland’s alleged role in the conspiracy with Wilson-Foley and her husband, but also goes back further than Election 2012.
The indictment alleges that in October 2009, Rowland “devised a scheme” to work for the campaign of another candidate, reportedly Mark Greenberg, who was seeking election in the 5th Congressional District in 2009 and 2010.
The indictment says Rowland attempted “to conceal from the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) and the public the fact that he would be paid to perform that work. To make the illegal arrangement appear legitimate, Rowland drafted a sham consulting contract pursuant to which he would purportedly perform work for a separate corporate entity, referred to in the indictment as the ‘Animal Center.’”
Greenberg owns an animal rescue center called the Simon Foundation in Bloomfield.
The indictment continues: “By proposing to run the campaign-related payments to Rowland through the Animal Center, Rowland sought to prevent actual campaign contributions and expenditures from being reported to the FEC and the public.”
Greenberg has stated that he rebuffed Rowland’s overture.
But during the 2012 election cycle, the indictment further alleges that Rowland “conspired with Wilson-Foley, Foley, and others to conceal from the FEC and the public that Rowland was paid money in exchange for services he provided to Wilson-Foley’s campaign.”
Brian Foley was owner of a Connecticut nursing home company and a number of other related companies, including a real estate company.
The indictment says that in order to retain Rowland’s services for the campaign while reducing the risk that Rowland’s paid role with the campaign would be disclosed to the public, Rowland, Wilson-Foley and Foley agreed that the former governor and afternoon radio talk show host would be paid by Foley to work on the campaign through a “fictitious contract.”
The indictment says the contract outlined an agreement purportedly for consulting services between Rowland and the law offices of an attorney who worked for Foley’s nursing home company.
Pursuant to that agreement, the indictment says Foley made regular payments to Rowland for his work on behalf of Wilson-Foley’s campaign and routed those payments from his real estate company through the law offices of the attorney. Rowland is further alleged to have provided nominal services to Foley’s nursing home company in order to create a “cover” that he was being paid for those nominal services when, in fact, he was being paid in exchange for his work on behalf of Wilson-Foley’s campaign.
At the time, Wilson-Foley was concerned about Rowland showing up as a paid consultant in her campaign reports because of his previous corruption conviction. Rowland spent 10 months in prison after resigning the governor’s office in 2004 and pleading guilty to a conspiracy count. He also admitted to committing mail fraud by accepting gratuities and not disclosing them, and to defrauding the Internal Revenue Service by not paying taxes on those gratuities.
According to recent court documents from the Wilson-Foley case, even Rowland himself recognized that his help on her congressional campaign could be problematic if it were to be publicized.
“I am just a volunteer helping you and ‘many other Republican candidates’ in case anyone asks,” Rowland emailed Wilson-Foley in November 2011. “I want to stay under the radar as much as possible and get the job done.”
Rowland emerged from prison in 2006, but didn’t re-enter public life until 2008 when he took a job as Waterbury’s economic development director. He later landed the gig at WTIC in 2010 and over the past few years has been encouraged by his listeners to again run for public office. Last week, Rowland resigned from his radio gig to take care of some “personal issues.”
Hearst Connecticut is reporting that Rowland turned down an 18-month plea deal. Instead, the former governor now faces two counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation, one count of conspiracy, two counts of causing false statements to be made to the FEC, and two counts of causing illegal campaign contributions. The various charges carry maximum sentences of one to 20 years in prison.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Republican Party was getting ready Thursday for its biggest fundraiser of the year in Stamford.
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential contender in 2016, will be the keynote speaker at the event.
The Republican Party distanced itself from Rowland as the festivities got underway.
“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,” Jerry Labriola Jr., Republican party chairman, said in a statement.
But the Connecticut Democratic Party was relishing the confluence of events.
“We’ve definitely seen this movie before, and we know how badly it ends,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said. “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.”
DiNardo was referring to a 2003 visit Bush made back when Rowland was governor before he resigned in 2004.
Greenberg, who was attending the Prescott Bush fundraiser in Stamford with his wife Thursday, was not willing to comment about the indictment.
“I really can’t talk about this at this time. I’m here at the Bush dinner and I’m here with my wife and I’d like to celebrate at this time,” Greenberg said as his dinner arrived.
Greenberg said he hadn’t read the indictment.