Former Gov. John Rowland took money to conduct an on-air “political ambush” of a congressional candidate during Rowland’s live radio show on WTIC, federal prosecutors claimed in new court documents this week.
Rowland got a job hosting an afternoon political talk show on WTIC following a 10-month bid in federal prison on corruption charges. Now the former governor is facing a new set of corruption allegations related to political work, which prosecutors say he arranged to do off-the-books for Lisa Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign for the 5th Congressional District.
He is accused of drafting a phony consulting contract to hide from election regulators the $35,000 paid to him by Brian Foley, Wilson-Foley’s husband.
In documents filed Tuesday, prosecutors argued that a jury should hear the testimony of Superior Court Judge Andrew Roraback, who in 2012 was competing with Wilson-Foley for the Republican nomination in the 5th District. Roraback eventually won the nomination but lost the general election to current U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat.
In 2011, Roraback was a state senator and congressional candidate who had agreed to appear on the radio show hosted by Rowland, a fellow Republican who had been “friendly and politically helpful” during Roraback’s previous appearances on the show.
However, prosecutors say Roraback’s December appearance was “hostile” because it occurred three weeks after Rowland had been paid his first $10,000 by the Foleys. Almost immediately, Rowland hit Roraback with critical questions about votes he had taken in the state legislature, then he cut the line before Roraback had a chance to respond.
“These circumstances strongly suggest and the jury could infer that the defendant’s conduct on [Dec.] 6, 2011 and during the subsequent on-air attack relating to the death penalty was not legitimate opinion broadcasting, but a political ambush paid for by Brian Foley,” prosecutors wrote.
The allegations were part of an argument against a motion by Rowland’s legal team to stop the a jury from hearing the testimony of Roraback and another former congressional candidate during the trial scheduled to begin on Sept. 3.
A spokeswoman for WTIC declined to comment for this story. Rowland left his job at the station on April 3, days after the Foleys pleaded guilty to related charges and implicated the former governor. During that period many called for the station to remove Rowland from the air, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Prosecutors claim they have evidence suggesting some of Rowland’s work on the radio station was secretly paid for by the Foleys. They say Rowland coordinated his attack on Roraback’s anti-death penalty voting record with Wilson-Foley’s campaign. The candidate’s talking points on the issue mirrored Rowland’s on-air attacks. U.S. attorneys say Rowland coached her.
“Ultimately, Judge Roraback’s testimony about the defendant’s on-air conduct and its effect on his campaign bears directly on the nature of the defendant’s campaign work and its value,” they wrote. “Given that this case is largely about the work that the defendant performed for the Wilson-Foley campaign, nothing is more relevant.”
In addition to Roraback and Wilson-Foley, the government is seeking to put other former 5th District congressional candidates on the stand. Mark Greenberg, who is running for the seat again this year, is expected to testify that Rowland unsuccessfully pitched a similar consulting scheme to him in 2009.
Prosecutors argued this week that the jury should also hear from Mike Clark, another former candidate and retired FBI agent who worked on the corruption case that put Rowland behind bars in 2004.
Rowland’s legal team has argued that Clark’s testimony on the former governor’s original conviction could needlessly overlap with Foley’s testimony. Foley is expected to tell the jury how Rowland’s criminal history factored into the campaign’s decision to hide the former governor’s involvement.