Not satisfied with the Federal Communications Commission’s response to his complaint against WTIC-AM radio, attorney Ken Krayeske will file an appeal Monday.
Krayeske, an attorney and blogger, called the FCC’s response “flippant” and said he doesn’t feel like the agency, which regulates the airwaves, took his first complaint seriously so he’s going to file an appeal. Krayeske alleged WTIC-AM’s afternoon host, former Gov. John G. Rowland, violated the terms of the station’s FCC license when he failed to disclose his volunteer work for Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign and his paid consulting work for her husband’s nursing home chain.
Wilson-Foley is one of four candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the 5th congressional district.
In May, the FCC found that WTIC-AM didn’t violate any rules when Rowland, decided not to disclose his position on the campaign, even though he talked about the race and to Wilson-Foley’s opponents on the air.
“The FCC has no control over who a station might employ either on-air or off the air, and there is no requirement that a station disclose any current or prior political relationships of its employees,” Mark Berlin, of the FCC’s media bureau, wrote in response to Krayeske’s complaint.
Krayeske complained to the FCC about Rowland’s decision not to disclose his connection to the Wilson-Foley campaign when he had one of her Republican opponents on the air. That conversation ended with Rowland giving the entire listening audience the opponents cell phone number.
“It appears that the Wilson-Foley campaign and John Rowland coordinated a political attack against at least one of her opponents, Andrew Roraback, using live air time on CBS Radio Inc.’s WTIC-1080 AM’s frequency,” Krayeske’s original complaint says. “This live air time is a commodity that should have been paid for by the Wilson-Foley campaign or be listed as a contribution to the Wilson-Foley campaign.”
Roraback went on the air with Rowland in November 2011 shortly after announcing his intention to enter the race. “The exchange as I recall it was a little testy,” Roraback said last week in an interview. The interview is no longer archived on WTIC’s website.
But the FCC didn’t seem interested in addressing the specifics of Krayeske’s complaint, which pointed to disclosure regulations for FCC license holders.
“You state that Mr. Rowland never indicated on the air that he volunteered for or worked for Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign for Congress, and you feel that this either violates the law or violates the spirit of the law requiring open disclosure,” Berlin wrote in his May 21 response before concluding it wasn’t a matter the FCC was interested in addressing.
But Krayeske, who ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in 2010, isn’t backing down. He doesn’t believe the FCC addressed his concerns.
“Normally, a paid plug for a candidate would be considered an advertisement,” Krayeske wrote in his appeal.
If it was a sponsorship, and if Rowland was giving the Wilson-Foley campaign more publicity than the other candidates or using airtime to trash her opponents, then his relationship needed to be disclosed, he argues in the appeal.
At the same time as he was volunteering for Wilson-Foley’s campaign, Rowland was also being paid as a consultant by Apple Rehab, the nursing home run by Wilson-Foley’s husband Brian Foley. A federal grand jury is investigating Rowland’s relationship with Foley.
Wilson-Foley’s campaign declined to comment on the appeal.
The appeal goes on to alleged that since hiring Rowland, who resigned as governor in 2004 before serving time in a federal prison on a corruption charge, WTIC has had a responsibility to monitor his broadcasts to make sure he wasn’t abusing his position of trust.
“I think WTIC’s standard of reasonable diligence is higher than normal, given the players involved. We’d all like to think that the bad actor is capable of reformation. But in the journalism industry, the old saw ‘Trust, but Verify’ exists because the tiger may not always change his stripes,” Krayeske wrote in his appeal.
One of the main questions Krayeske seeks to answer is: “Did that licensed station exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining from its employees whether matters being broadcast applied to the sponsorship section?” According to previous news reports WTIC program director Jeneen Lee says Rowland disclosed the conflict to station bosses, even though Krayeske and others have never heard it mentioned on the air.
Lee did not respond to repeated requests to comment.
However, even if the FCC won’t investigate Rowland’s arrangement with Wilson-Foley’s campaign or his $30,000 consulting job with her husband, a federal grand jury is looking into the issue.
Roraback said he didn’t learn about the consulting relationship Wilson-Foley’s husband had with Rowland until months after the interivew.
“I’ve said this of both Chris Donovan and Lisa Wilson-Foley, what they owe the voters of the 5th District is to make themselves available to the public and the press to answer questions,” Roraback said.
Donovan’s finance director, Robert Braddock Jr., was arrested May 30 by federal authorities and charged with conspiring to conceal the source of $20,000 in campaign donations.