- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland pleaded not guilty Friday to conspiracy and other federal charges in an alleged pursuit of secret consulting roles with two congressional campaigns.

Rowland, who served 10 months in prison in a corruption scandal that led to his resignation a decade ago, appeared tense as he entered the court room. He briefly answered the judge’s questions during his arraignment. Bond was set at $250,000 and jury selection was scheduled for June 10.

Rowland’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, said they are eager for trial to begin.

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“We will have an aggressive challenge to these charges. Most of all we are looking forward to this trial, and we fully expect our client to be fully vindicated,” he said.

Rowland is charged with two counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation, one count of conspiracy, two counts of causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission, and two counts of causing illegal campaign contributions. With convictions, the charges together carry a maximum prison sentence of 57 years.

Rowland, who was elected governor three times and served as chairman of the national Republican Governors Association, was a rising Republican star before he resigned 10 years ago. A friend of former President George H. W. Bush, he had once been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate or cabinet member.

Rowland was released from prison in 2006 after serving his prison term and rebuilt his life as host of a popular radio show. He earlier had landed a job as an economic development coordinator.

Former Republican congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty March 31 to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions through a scheme that hid the consulting role prosecutors say Rowland played in her 2012 campaign.

Authorities say Rowland provided nominal services to Foley’s nursing home company under a phony contract to create a cover that he was being paid for those services instead of work for Wilson-Foley’s campaign.

Wilson-Foley wanted Rowland to work on her primary campaign but believed that because he had been convicted of a felony his involvement would attract negative publicity to her candidacy, prosecutors said.

Rowland was paid about $35,000 for services to the campaign, authorities said. The payments originated with Foley and constituted campaign contributions but were not reported to the FEC, in violation of federal campaign finance laws, prosecutors said.

Weingarten said Rowland had no responsibility to file anything with the FEC and that he did real work for Foley.

According to prosecutors, Rowland also devised a scheme to work for the campaign of a candidate seeking election to the same congressional seat during the 2009 and 2010 election cycle and to conceal that he would be paid to perform that work. Authorities say Rowland drafted a sham consulting contract in which he would purportedly perform work for an animal center to prevent campaign contributions and expenditures from being reported to the FEC and the public.

Authorities did not identify the candidate, but candidate Mark Greenberg’s campaign has said he turned down a proposal by Rowland in which he would help Greenberg’s campaign in 2010 and be compensated as a board member of the nonprofit animal shelter that Greenberg and his wife operate. Rowland has denied the claim by Greenberg, whose campaign said he was not a target.

Greenberg declined comment Thursday.

Weingarten said there is no allegation that Rowland worked on the campaign, received any money or that documents were submitted to federal agencies.

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