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The Rowlands’ Political Paper Trail Includes Republicans & Democrats

by Christine Stuart | Apr 16, 2014 4:29am
(5) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012, Equality, Ethics, Waterbury, Watertown

Douglas Healey photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland and his attorney Reid Weingarten walk into U.S. District Court in New Haven last week

Campaign finance records show that in the years following his incarceration, former Gov. John G. Rowland and his wife, Patricia, made several donations to both Democratic and Republican candidates and town committees.

Under some of the donations logged with the state Elections Enforcement Commission he listed himself as a radio personality and in others he was a self-employed marketing consultant with JGR Associates LLC. In one instance, he listed himself as Waterbury’s economic development director, a job he held from 2008 to 2012. Patricia Rowland lists herself as an antique dealer.

The largest donation either of them made — $5,000 to the Mitt Romney campaign — came from Patricia Rowland in 2012, according to Federal Election Commission records. That same year, records show that she also donated $500 to Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign in the 5th Congressional District — the campaign federal investigators are still sorting out through recent guilty pleas from Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, and new grand jury indictment for the embattled former governor.

Between 2009 and 2012, the former governor gave $575 to the Middlebury Republican Town Committee and $420 to the Waterbury Republican Town Committee. Rowland and his wife also gave money in 2010 and 2012 to local politicians such as Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, and Reps. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, and Anthony D’Amelio, R-Waterbury.

Over the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, the Rowlands cumulatively donated $150 to Berger, $130 to D’Amelio, and $150 to Kane.

In 2010, the Rowlands also provided $150 to Tom Foley, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, $500 to Ross Garber, who was Rowland’s former legal counsel and briefly a candidate for attorney general, and $200 to former Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura, who was in a primary battle for state comptroller.

Despite the record of donations, on April 3, just minutes before announcing his resignation from WTIC 1080 AM as its weekday afternoon radio host, Rowland called the state public campaign finance system that he inspired a “joke.”

His last guest that day was David Walker, a Republican who is currently a candidate for lieutenant governor. During the broadcast, Walker was bemoaning the restrictions on prospective and current state contractors from donating money to candidates or even soliciting money on their behalf.

The state’s public financing rules were adopted by the legislature in 2005 as a result of Rowland’s corruption conviction.

In 2004, the feds charged Rowland with taking more than $100,000 in gifts from a state contractor. He pleaded guilty to one count of depriving the citizens of Connecticut of “the honest services of its governor.” He emerged from prison in 2006, and by 2007 he was on the speaking circuit talking about the arrogance of power and redemption.

Asked about Rowland’s previous financial support for their campaigns, most said they dealt with him based on his role as Waterbury’s economic development director.

“John has been a very popular, well-respected guy in the Greater Waterbury community,” Kane said Tuesday.

Berger, a Democrat, said he recalls that Rowland attended one of his fundraisers. At the time, Berger was the co-chairman of the legislature’s Commerce Committee. He said they spoke a lot about business development in the Brass City.

In 2008, Rowland was hired by Jarjura to oversee economic development at a salary of $95,000 and held the job until 2012.

In 2008, former state Sen. David Cappiello, a Republican from Danbury, was challenging then-U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy in the 5th Congressional District. But Cappiello was one of the first to call on Rowland to resign back in 2004, so instead of helping his fellow Republican, the former governor used his position in Waterbury to help raise funds for Murphy.

In a Sept. 12, 2008, email Rowland encouraged his friends to attend the fundraiser for Murphy.

“We want to have a good Waterbury turnout,” Rowland wrote. “Please let us know if you can attend.”

Asked Monday about the 2008 event, now-Sen. Murphy recollected that the business people in Waterbury held a fundraiser for him and Rowland sent out email asking people to come to the event because he was working as the economic development coordinator.

“I worked with Rowland pretty regularly because he was the head of economic development for the city,” Murphy said Monday.

He said he can’t speak to Rowland’s motivations for supporting him in 2008. The only evidence of his support seems to be the email obtained by the Courant.

Rowland started working at WTIC 1080 AM in 2010, overlapping with his stint as Waterbury’s economic development coordinator until 2012. He resigned his radio gig earlier this month, about a week before he was indicted by a grand jury.

Last week, Rowland pleaded “not guilty” to the seven-count indictment, which says he “devised a scheme” to work for two congressional campaigns and funnel the payment for those consulting gigs through business entities owned by the candidate or their spouse.

In 2009 and 2010, according to the federal indictment, he tried to get Republican Mark Greenberg to pay him his a consulting fee through a non-profit animal shelter in Bloomfield. Greenberg declined his offer, but in 2011 the feds say Rowland made a similar offer to Lisa Wilson-Foley. The consulting contract was allegedly facilitated through the nursing home chain run by Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley, instead of the campaign. Both Wilson-Foley and her husband have pleaded guilty.

“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.”

Jury selection in the case is tentatively expected to start in June.

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(5) Comments

posted by: SteveM | April 16, 2014  9:39am

What is it about politics that makes it so difficult to leave it? This is obviously a smart man on some level, why not stick with the radio show or work in another sector? Its amazing to me that people cannot simply walk away, its like an addiction.

posted by: Not that Michael Brown | April 16, 2014  12:16pm

Not quite seeing the smoking gun here.  How does the fact that Rowland made campaign donations relate to his indictment?

posted by: Stan Muzyk | April 16, 2014  3:31pm

@NotthatMichaelBrown: With seven federal indictments against Rowland—“it’s now a lawyers’s game to unravel your question.”

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | April 16, 2014  7:51pm

DrHunterSThompson

18 months is a deal only a fool would turn down, if a fool was in his position.

HST

posted by: Greg | April 17, 2014  10:48am

@ SteveM: that is my exact question.  he had a good gig as a talking head, why he would involve himself in the process is beyond me.