Star witness testifies against ex-Connecticut governor in corruption trial

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2014 11:20 PM

By Richard Weizel

NEW HAVEN Conn. (Reuters) - Former Connecticut Governor John Rowland, forced from office a decade ago on a corruption conviction, promised a political newcomer he could help her get elected by working as a consultant on her 2012 congressional campaign, her husband testified on Friday.

Brian Foley took the stand on Friday as the star prosecution witness in the former Republican governor's trial on charges of violating U.S. campaign finance laws by seeking backroom consulting jobs on two Republican congressional campaigns.

The Connecticut nursing home operator said he and his wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley, met with Rowland on “seven or eight occasions” in 2011 to discuss political strategy.

Wilson-Foley was seeking the U.S. House of Representatives seat that Rowland held before he was elected to three terms as governor. She lost her bid for office.

"The meetings focused primarily on politics and how he could help get Lisa elected through his contacts with delegates, debate preparation and crisis management,” Foley said.

He said those talks culminated with Rowland’s proposal that Wilson-Foley hire him to replace a paid Washington consultant “that you don’t need.”

The prosecution has yet to ask Foley how Rowland, 57, who has pleaded not guilty, sought to be paid, testimony that could form the heart of its case. Foley takes the stand again on Monday.

Prosecutors contend that after the meetings with Rowland, Foley agreed to pay him through his nursing home enterprise, under what they described as an illegal contract.

The couple have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to testify for the prosecution under a plea deal.

Rowland is also accused of attempting to work in secret as a paid consultant on Mark Greenberg's Republican congressional campaign in 2009.

Greenberg, who is running for the same congressional seat in November's election, testified on Monday he rejected a similar proposal by Rowland that year because “it would have been against the law.”

Greenberg said Rowland was seeking $35,000 a month, with payments to be made by Greenberg’s businesses, not his campaign.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Rowland tried to prevent disclosure to the Federal Election Commission that he would receive payment for campaign work from 2009 through 2012.

Rowland resigned as governor after pleading guilty to accepting gifts and work at his home from contractors who were awarded lucrative state contracts. He served 10 months in prison in 2006.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Peter Cooney)