Connecticut Corruption: It’s the Transparency, Stupid
On Sept. 19, John G. Rowland, the former governor of Connecticut, was convicted in federal court in New Haven on seven counts related to political corruption. The jury found that Mr. Rowland had created false records and obstructed justice in a conspiracy to hide his role as a political adviser to a 2012 Republican candidate for the state’s Fifth Congressional District, Lisa Wilson-Foley.
Rowland certainly knows politics. Elected three times as governor, three times to the U.S. House of Representatives, and once to the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, Rowland was a rising Republican star with a national future—possibly even in the White House, pundits said. Then came a 2004 corruption scandal. Facing impeachment, Governor Rowland stepped down as governor and pleaded guilty to accepting lavish gifts—a hot tub, a heating system for a lakeside cottage, cigars, Champagne, a Ford Mustang—from friends and associates with business before the state. He served 10 months in prison.
A decade later, Rowland apparently learned nothing from the experience. In the current case, Ms. Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley, gave Mr. Rowland a sham job at his nursing home company, Apple Rehab, to conceal a $35,000 payment for political advice. The Foleys, caught, cooperated with prosecutors and await sentencing. Mr. Foley was a key witness at the trial.
Rowland’s attorney was Washington super-lawyer Reid Weingarten. He told all who would listen that this was just politics as usual—sausage-making in the state sausage factory—and that no crimes had been committed.
And indeed, as a legal matter, as the New York Times noted, Rowland “could have worked for a candidate’s campaign and received payment, had it been properly reported.” The problem: “candidates valued his experience but his criminal history made the association too risky.”
So a fake job had to be created, false documents had to be filed with regulators, and lies had to be told. The crime was the cover-up.
Speaking on the courthouse steps after the verdict, a senior federal prosecutor, Michael J. Gustafson, got to the heart of the matter: transparency.
“I heard it suggested, cynically, during the course of the trial, both in the courtroom and outside the courtroom, that this case was simply politics as usual,” Gustafson said in widely reported remarks. “It was far from that. It ought to be—no, it has to be—that voters know that what they see is what they get. In this case, the defendant and others didn’t want that to happen.”