July 10–Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that they intend to tell a jury that when former Gov. John G. Rowland sold his political consulting services, he was secretly selling the muscle behind his long-running political talk show on WTIC-AM radio in Hartford.
The prosecutors make the assertion in new legal papers filed in advance of Rowland’s trial on charges associated with his consulting agreement with former congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband and financial backer Brian Foley. The government said it will present evidence that, as part of the deal, Rowland used the radio station to build-up Wilson-Foley and annihilate her opponents.
The witness who the government said can make its case is Andrew Roraback, a former state representative and state Senator from northwest Connecticut, who now is a Superior Court Judge. Roraback, if allowed to testify, is expected to say that he wound up in Rowland’s cross hairs because he was one of the candidates competing against Wilson-Foley in the 5th District Republican primary in 2011 and 2012.
Prosecutors said that Rowland booked Roraback for a guest appearance in late 2011 that turned out to be a “pre-arranged and calculated” attack. A month or so later, Rowland used his talk show to blast Roraback’s opposition to capital punishment and prosecutors said the attack “was not legitimate opinion broadcasting, but a political ambush paid for by Brian Foley.”
The legal filing is one of about a dozen pretrial motions filed in recent days in U.S. District Court. In it, federal prosecutors are arguing, against Rowland’s objections, that Roraback and other government witnesses should be permitted to testify. U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton will rule on the question before Rowland’s trial, now scheduled in September.
“The Government will be required to prove that, from October 2011 through April 2012, the defendant received approximately $35,000 from Brian Foley to work on behalf of the Wilson-Foley Campaign,” the prosecutors wrote. “The Government contends and the evidence will show that the defendant’s on-air excoriations of Candidate Roraback constituted paid work on behalf of the Wilson-Foley Campaign.”
WTIC radio, which hired Rowland following his corruption-related conviction and imprisonment in 2004, declined comment. So did the U.S. Attorney’s office. Rowland’s defense team and Roraback did not reply to inquiries.
It has long been believed in political circles that Rowland used his radio program to push a personal agenda. But the government motion, filed Wednesday, is the first time such an assertion has made publicly and in such detail.
The prosecutors argue in the papers that Rowland’s ability to use the show to satisfy private ends was understood in 2011, when Rowland and the Foley’s negotiated a secret consulting deal. Under the agreement, prosecutors said Rowland was paid $35,000 in installments to develop campaign strategy, line up delegates for the Republican convention, raise money and use “his platform as a talk show radio host to advance Ms. Wilson-Foley’s candidacy and to undermine the candidacies of her opponents.”
Rowland is charged in a seven-count indictment with conspiracy, obstruction and other crimes for proposing and setting up two secret consulting deals.
Mark Greenberg, a 5th District Republican congressional candidate in 2010, rejected Rowland’s offer. But Wilson-Foley and her husband, who owns a chain or nursing homes, accepted two years later. Both are charged with conspiracy and are likely to be called as government witnesses at a trial.
The indictment charges that Rowland and the Foleys concocted an elaborate ruse to keep their agreement secret in violation of federal law requiring candidates for congress to make periodic public reports on campaign income and expenditures. The reporting requirements were written to allow the voters to form conclusions about how potential office holders obtain support.
Roraback and Michael Clark, another 5th District Republican in 2012, said, according to the government legal papers, that they would have run their campaigns against Wilson-Foley differently had they learned of her secret, paid relationship with Rowland. Clark is the retired supervisory FBI agent who led the investigation resulting in Rowland’s 2004 guilty plea and conviction.
Roraback, if permitted, will testify that he had a long and warm relationship with Rowland until he was invited to appear on the radio program shortly after the former governor received his first $10,000 payment from Brian Foley, the prosecution said.
The subject of the guest appearance was to be a discussion of unfunded pensions. But the prosecutors said it almost immediately turned into an attack by Rowland on Roraback’s position on jobs legislation.
Within weeks, Rowland was using his show to attack Roraback’s position on the death penalty. Shortly afterward, prosecutors said, Wilson-Foley’s campaign began running ads with the same message.
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