John Rowland is back on the air and talking, but the one thing he isn’t talking about is exactly the thing everyone else is talking about — which is that the 10 months he spent in prison apparently wasn’t long enough. He doesn’t seem to have learned a thing.
Last time, a decade ago, Rowland was forced out of office and packed off to prison as a convicted felon, on various counts of fraud. Lest there be any confusion, he pleaded guilty. That scandal, which ended his governorship, centered around various gifts and freebies he had received from prominent businessman William Tomasso, and construction contracts that were awarded to Tomasso interests.
When he got out of prison, Rowland took a job at WTIC-AM radio, hosting the afternoon drive-time talk show, where he often shared a mic with Pastor Will Marotti, of Meriden’s New Life Church. During the 2012 campaign season, Rowland often commented on the 5th Congressional District race, even though he was secretly on the payroll of one of the candidates.
This time, Rowland has been named as a co-conspirator by prominent businessman Brian Foley, who pleaded guilty to electoral fraud, along with his wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley. On Monday, Foley told a federal judge: “I knowingly and intentionally conspired with co-conspirator one, who was John Rowland.”
Last time, the case involved more than $100 million in no-bid contracts that went to Tomasso companies, although the only dollar figure the feds were actually able to hang on Rowland, as the value of gifts and vacations received, was $107,000.
This time, the issue is the money the Foleys paid him to be a secret consultant to Wilson-Foley’s campaign for the Republican nomination in the 5th District, camouflaged as a job with her husband’s chain of nursing homes, for which Rowland received $35,000.
So, simple arithmetic would suggest that Rowland’s honor and his once-good name were on the block, for a price of not less than $142,000. Rowland has not been charged, but the federal eagles are circling, and he has retained a Washington, D.C., law firm. Looks like he’ll need it.
As of Tuesday, though, he wasn’t talking, and station management said they were “monitoring the situation closely.” Maybe they should have started their monitoring a bit earlier.
We can only wonder what it is about the 5th District seat that seems to generate problematic situations. First there was the scandal about the roll-your-own tobacco shops, which lost Christopher Donovan the Democratic nomination even though he wasn’t charged with anything; now there’s this, with Wilson-Foley losing the Republican nomination. And it’s the same seat that belonged, back in the 1980s, to — that’s right: John Rowland. Perhaps his track record was unsullied then.