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Jessica Hill FR125654 AP
Former Conn. Gov. John G. Rowland, right, arrives with attorney Reid Weingarten at federal court in New Haven. Rowland faces charges he schemed to conceal involvement with congressional campaigns. | AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

Rowland argues charges are unconstitutional, false

HARTFORD — Lawyers for former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland are arguing that some of the federal charges he faces are unconstitutional.

They responded to government arguments in U.S. District Court with new briefs Monday night in support of motions to have much of the case against the 57-year-old former governor dismissed.

Rowland is accused of trying to create secret paid consultant roles with two congressional campaigns in 2010 and 2012.

He pleaded not guilty in April to federal charges including conspiracy, falsifying records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission, and causing illegal campaign contributions.

Prosecutors argue Rowland, who served 10 months in prison on corruption charges after resigning from office a decade ago, offered to hide his campaign role because of his notoriety.

They allege that the contracts called for him be paid instead for non-existent work done for an animal center operated by 2010 congressional candidate Mark Greenberg and a nursing home run by Brian Foley, the husband of 2012 candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley.

The government charges the second arrangement resulted in payments to Rowland that amounted to illegal campaign contributions by Brian Foley to his wife’s campaign. The couple pleaded guilty on March 31 to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions.

But Rowland’s attorneys argue those charges are undermined by a recent Supreme Court ruling, McCutcheon v. FEC, which voided the overall federal limit on individuals’ campaign contributions.

They also argue the payments were not actually contributions to the campaign but expenditures from it, “which are not subject to any limit.”

“This is because Ms. Wilson-Foley is alleged to have authorized the payments at issue and her personal funds can include assets that nominally originate with Mr. Foley,” Rowland’s lawyers wrote.

Rowland’s attorneys also argue the contract involving the animal center described wide-ranging and open-ended obligations and was an unsigned, unexecuted draft contract in which no work was performed and no payments were made.

Prosecutors argue Rowland used the proposed contract to try to mislead them and stop the investigation.

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 in 2004. 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 time for taking gifts in exchange for political access. He rebuilt his life as host of a popular radio show in Hartford, a job he stepped down from in April when it became apparent he would again face federal charges.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Aug. 5, with testimony to start on Sept. 3.

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