- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Once again in the crosshairs of federal investigators, former Gov. John G. Rowland said on his radio show Tuesday that he won’t be commenting on “recent news and legal developments” after a former congressional candidate and her husband pleaded guilty in a scheme to hide the role Rowland played in her campaign.

Former Republican candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions by creating a fictitious contract for work Rowland was to provide Foley’s nursing home company. Rowland, a Republican, has not been charged in the ongoing investigation.

“Before I get the program going I just want to make a quick statement,” Rowland said on his show. “I am not going to be discussing the recent news and legal developments. I’m sure you all understand, and I want to respect the process.”

Rowland resigned as governor amid another scandal in 2004 and was released from prison in 2006 after serving 10 months on a corruption-related charge.

Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, said Rowland should be taken off the air in light of the new case. Malloy said the scandal is “deeply disappointing” for the state of Connecticut and erodes trust in the political process. He said Rowland violated trust that he was accorded as host of the radio show.

Rowland “was not serving in public office but he had the interesting position of trying to impact and influence political discourse on an afternoon radio show. That somebody would violate that trust as well is disturbing,” Malloy said.

The radio station that hosts Rowland’s show, WTIC, is closely monitoring the situation, said Program Director Jenneen Lee. Messages left for his attorneys were not returned.

Wilson-Foley was a candidate in the 5th Congressional District representing northwestern Connecticut. She lost the Republican primary in 2012.

As part of the scheme, Rowland proposed that he be hired to work on the campaign, authorities said. Wilson-Foley wanted Rowland to work on the campaign but believed that because he had been convicted of a felony, disclosure of his paid role in the campaign would result in substantial negative publicity for her candidacy, prosecutors said.

Rowland provided nominal services to Foley’s nursing home company to create a cover that he was being paid for those services when, in fact, he was being paid in exchange for his work on behalf of Wilson-Foley’s campaign, authorities said. Rowland was paid about $35,000 for services to the campaign, authorities said.

Wilson-Foley and Foley each face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 at sentencing.

Court papers outlining the charges quote emails from a co-conspirator identified in court as Rowland.

Mike Clark, a candidate in the Republican primary who filed a federal elections complaint over the payments made to Rowland, said he was disappointed in Wilson-Foley’s campaign. Clark is a former FBI agent who investigated the case that ultimately sent Rowland to prison.

“You pour your heart and your soul and your money into these campaigns and everyone’s playing by the rules but one campaign decides not to,” Clark said Tuesday. “It’s disappointing and the public trust is really violated. They obviously went to great lengths to get around those rules and regulations.”

The case is different from many that involve illegal campaign contributions, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group in Washington.

“That is somewhat unusual that there is someone with such a bad reputation that a campaign nevertheless so badly wants to employ that it needs to break the law in order to hide that from the public,” Ryan said. “Who candidates choose to associate with and employ matters in the eyes of voters so voters need accurate information about that.”


Christoffersen reported from New Haven.

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