Guilty seven times over: Former Gov. Rowland convicted of campaign scheme

Former Gov. John Rowland
Former Gov. John Rowland

Former Gov. John G. Rowland is likely headed back to federal prison after being found guilty on seven charges today. He could face up to 57 years behind bars, although his sentence is likely to be much less.

A federal jury in New Haven convicted Rowland on all seven counts related to his efforts to conceal the extent of his involvement in two federal election campaigns.  The trial began on Sept. 3 and the jury returned its verdict on the afternoon of Sept. 19.

Rowland, 57, of Middlebury, served as governor of Connecticut from 1995 to 2004, and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1985 to 1991. He resigned as governor in 2004 after agreeing to plead guilty in another, unrelated case that led to his earlier imprisonment.

‘Lies and deception’

“Lies and deception can never be accepted as politics as usual in Connecticut,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Gustafson after the verdict. “All voters have a right to know the truth when they cast their ballots.”

“The verdict in this case should give the public a sense that justice does prevail,” said Shelly A. Binkowski, inspector-in-charge for the Boston Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “Public officials are not immune from the law.”

Feds: Scheme idea began in 2009

According to evidence introduced during the trial, in approximately October 2009, Rowland devised a scheme to work for the campaign of a candidate seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District during the 2009 and 2010 election cycle, and to conceal from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the public that he would be paid to perform that work.

To make the illegal arrangement appear legitimate, Rowland allegedly drafted a sham consulting contract pursuant to which he would purportedly perform work for a separate corporate entity owned by the candidate.

During the 2011 and 2012 election cycle, another candidate, Lisa Wilson-Foley, was seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District — a seat once held by Rowland when he was much younger.

Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley, owns a Connecticut nursing home company and a number of other related companies, including a real estate company. Rowland conspired with Wilson-Foley, Foley and others to conceal from the FEC and the public that Rowland was paid money in exchange for services he provided to Wilson-Foley’s campaign, federal officials said.

Paid by nursing home for campaign work

As part of the scheme, Rowland allegedly proposed to Wilson-Foley and Foley that he be hired to work on the campaign. In order to retain Rowland’s services for the campaign while reducing the risk that his paid campaign role would be disclosed to the public,

Rowland, Wilson-Foley and Foley agreed that Rowland would be paid by Foley to work on the campaign, prosecutors said.

Rowland, Foley and others then created and executed a fictitious contract outlining an agreement purportedly for consulting services between Rowland and the law offices of an attorney who worked for Foley’s nursing home company, according to the prosecutors’ case. Foley made regular payments to Rowland for his work on behalf of Wilson-Foley’s campaign and routed those payments from his real estate company through the law offices of the attorney, officials said.

Creating a ‘cover’

Rowland provided nominal services to Foley’s nursing home company in order to create a “cover” that he was being paid for those nominal services when, in fact, he was being paid in exchange for his work on behalf of Wilson-Foley’s campaign, officials said.

Between September 2011 and April 2012, Rowland was paid about $35,000 for services rendered to Wilson-Foley’s campaign. 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.

The seven counts, possible sentence

The jury found Rowland guilty of:

— two counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count.

— one count of conspiracy, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years.

— two counts of causing false statements to be made to the FEC, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years on each count.

— two counts of causing illegal campaign contributions, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of one year on each count.

Will be sentenced Dec. 12

Rowland is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton on December 12.

In December 2004, Rowland had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud and tax fraud. In March 2005, he had been sentenced to 12 months and one day of imprisonment and four months of home confinement. He also was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service.

On March 31, 2014, Foley and Wilson-Foley each pleaded guilty to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions. After reaching that plea agreement, they cooperated with federal prosecutors. They now await sentencing.

This matter was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Liam Brennan and Christopher Mattei.