Two plead guilty in political case in which Rowland is believed to be the target

Former Gov. John Rowland
Former Gov. John Rowland

The feds appear to be zeroing in on former Gov. John Rowland with a guilty plea Monday by a former Republican candidate for Congress and her husband, who owns a chain of nursing homes.

Lisa Wilson-Foley, a 2012 candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives, and her husband, Brian Foley, both of Simsbury, pleaded guilty in Hartford federal court on March 31 to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions.

Wilson-Foley and Foley are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on June 23, at which time they face a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a fine of up to $100,000.

Rowland had consulting contract

Rowland had a consulting contract with Brian Foley’s nursing home company at the same time of his wife's congressional campaign, and some have alleged that the contract was a way to have Rowland provide political advice to Lisa Wilson-Foley without his name having to appear on her campaign finance reports.

Rowland is a convicted felon who spent almost a year in federal prison for political corruption, based on some of his actions while the state’s Republican governor from 1995-2004. He now hosts a talk show on a major Hartford AM radio station.

Rowland also served as a U.S. congressman and state representative from Waterbury before being becoming governor. He resigned as governor due to the scandal that eventually sent him to prison.

Sought GOP nomination in 2012

According to court documents and statements made in federal court, in 2011 and 2012, Wilson-Foley, 54, was competing for the Republican nomination for Congress from Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District, which covers the northwestern part of the state, including such cities as Waterbury, Danbury and Torrington.

As a candidate for federal office, Wilson-Foley and her associates formed and registered the Lisa Wilson-Foley for Congress Committee with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in order to receive contributions and make expenditures on behalf of her campaign.

Had to file campaign reports

Wilson-Foley knew that federal law imposed restrictions on contributions to federal campaigns, and that her campaign committee was required by law to file periodic reports with the FEC detailing, among other things, contributions made to her campaign and expenditures made on the campaign’s behalf.

Under the federal campaign finance laws, convention, primary and general election campaign contributions were limited to $2,500 each, for a total of $7,500, from any individual to any one candidate.

Federal officials said Wilson-Foley knew that one of the purposes of the FEC reporting requirements was to make available to the voting public information concerning the source of contributions to the campaign and the nature of the campaign’s expenditures.

‘Unlawful conspiracy’

In September 2011, Wilson-Foley, Foley and a co-conspirator, who is a former elected official in the state of Connecticut [this is believed to be Rowland, although it’s important to note the federal indictment does not specifically use Rowland’s name], entered into an unlawful conspiracy to make — and cause to be made — illegal contributions to Wilson-Foley’s campaign, federal officials said.

As part of the scheme, the co-conspirator proposed to Wilson-Foley and Foley that he, the co-conspirator, be hired to work on the campaign, according to federal officials. The co-conspirator advised that he could replace the private political consultant that the campaign had retained.

Possible negative publicity

Wilson-Foley wanted the co-conspirator to work on the campaign, but believed that if the co-conspirator was hired in a significant role by her campaign and paid through her campaign committee for that work, the media and the voting public would become aware of the co-conspirator’s official association with her campaign, federal officials said.

Federal officials said Wilson-Foley believed that, because the co-conspirator had previously been convicted of a felony offense, disclosure of his paid role in the campaign would result in substantial negative publicity for Wilson-Foley’s candidacy.

In order to retain the co-conspirator’s services for the campaign while reducing the risk that his paid campaign role would be disclosed to the public, Wilson-Foley, Foley and the co-conspirator agreed that the co-conspirator would be paid by Foley to work on her campaign, according to federal officials.

Feds: ‘A fictitious contract’ was created

Foley, 62, owns a Connecticut nursing home company and a number of other related companies, including a real estate company.

Federal officials said as part of the scheme, the co-conspirator, Foley and others created and executed a fictitious contract outlining an agreement purportedly for consulting services between the co-conspirator and the law offices of an attorney who worked for Foley’s nursing home company.

Foley made regular payments to the co-conspirator 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 and on to the co-conspirator, federal officials said.

Creating a ‘cover’

The co-conspirator 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, according to federal officials.

Between September 2011 and April 2012, the co-conspirator allegedly was paid about $35,000 for services rendered to Wilson-Foley’s campaign. Federal officials said the payments originated with Foley and constituted campaign contributions, but were not reported to the FEC in violation of federal campaign finance laws.

Ongoing investigation

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Postal Investigation Service. The case is being prosecuted by Asst. U.S. Attorneys Liam Brennan and Christopher Mattei of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Connecticut.