GOP rivals challenge Foley on past arrests

Tom Foley’s two rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination demanded that he release all records and answer questions pertaining to two long-ago motor-vehicle arrests disclosed Friday, including a confrontation with his ex-wife in 1993.

Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, told The Mirror on Friday evening that as someone subjected to an FBI background check and a Senate review for his diplomatic post, he already has been vetted for public office.

He later released a scathing written statement accusing his opponents of grossly mischaracterizing the events.

Lt. Gov. Michael C. Fedele and Oz Griebel, who trail Foley in the polls, were reacting to a Hartford Courant report that Foley was arrested in 1981 and 1993 in connection with incidents in which he was accused of ramming one car and running another off the road. Charges were dropped in both cases.

foley, tom, 6-25-10

Tom Foley

“Today’s Hartford Courant article reveals very real and serious concerns about Tom Foley’s judgment, temperament and the significant personal baggage he brings to the race,” Griebel said.  “Connecticut needs a leader with a proven track record of real results who can turn around our economy and restore fiscal sanity in Hartford, not a politically opportunistic millionaire whose record includes bankrupting companies and an arrest history of domestic violence allegations.”

“Mr. Foley needs to come clean and authorize the release of court records relating to his arrest and imprisonment and explain the discrepancies in the various accounts of his second arrest so voters can know the full truth about these troubling incidents,” Fedele said.

The “imprisonment” refers to a night Foley spent in jail after his arrest in the 1981 incident, in which he says he accidentally struck another car after a party. The occupants told police they were rammed. Foley, then 29, was charged with assault, but he told the paper that the charges were dropped without any settlement on his part.

The records of the incident are sealed.

Foley said there are no discrepancies or unanswered questions in story by Jon Lender of The Courant, and he reacted strongly to Griebel’s reference to “domestic violence.”

“There was no suggestion in Jon Lender’s article that domestic violence was involved in either of these incidents and I categorically deny that any domestic violence occurred between me and my former wife at any time before, during, or after our marriage. To raise that specter publicly without any evidence is a shameful lack of fair play in the public domain,” Foley said in his written statement.

Foley was arrested on an attempted assault charge in June 1981 after a motor-vehicle collision after leaving a party in Southampton, N.Y., on Long Island. He said both he and his ex-wife, Lisa Foley, were charged with breach of peace in the 1993 incident, which involved an argument over whether Lisa Foley had violated the terms of a child custody agreement.

“My opponents should be ashamed of their false and intemperate remarks which raise serious questions about their truthfulness and personal characters. In the 1981 incident I was retained in a police cell overnight until an attorney could arrive from New York City. Characterizing this as imprisonment is misleading and mischievous,” Foley said in his statement.

In 1993, Foley’s then-estranged wife told police he forced her off the road as she left his home in Greenwich with their young son. Foley acknowledged pursuing her in his car, because she had not disclosed where she was taking the boy, but he denied forcing her off the road, The Courant reported.

“Both incidents were included in a binder of documents and allegations that Foley’s former wife provided in 2002 to the office of then-Gov. John G. Rowland. Copies of documents from the file were obtained by The Courant, although not from ex-wife Lisa Foley,” the paper reported. In 2002, Foley was serving on a state task force on child custody issues.

In a telephone interview with The Mirror, Foley said neither incident came up during his interview by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when President George W. Bush nominated him as ambassador to Ireland in 2006. He said he did not make a point of disclosing the two arrests, but he was subject to a detailed FBI background investigation.

“To be an ambassador, you have to have a top-secret clearance,” said Foley, who also was a Bush administration appointee to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003, overseeing the nation’s state-owned businesses. “I’m sure they were aware of both the incidents, and it was not a problem for them.”

In statement issued by his campaign, Foley questioned how the binder send to the Rowland administration had become public.

“Both of these incidents came to light as a result of a letter my former wife wrote to the Governor’s office in 2002 at a time when our relationship was particularly strained. I first heard about the letter yesterday afternoon after it was leaked to the Hartford Courant. The circumstances of how a confidential document from the Governor’s office was leaked to the press and by whom raise serious questions,” Foley said.

Republican State Chairman Chris Healy said late Friday afternoon he had not spoken to Foley.

“It’s certainly fair game,” Healy said. “I think the bench mark is, Were these things pursued through the criminal justice system?”

Even before the statement was issued, Healy said he thought Foley full explained the incidents, but the other two Republican candidates clearly disagreed.

“I call on Tom to exercise full transparency and approve the release of sealed court records detailing his arrests, making his complete past known to the voters.  If the headline: ‘Tom Foley’s arrest record,’ isn’t enough to question whether Tom is right for Connecticut, I don’t know what is,” Griebel said.

The Courant story comes as Foley seemed to be effortlessly moving toward the primary as the only candidate with enough resources to afford a major television advertising campaign.

On Thursday, Foley stopped in Hamden to pick up an endorsement from a one-time competitor, Larry DeNardis, then mingled for an hour.

Griebel and Fedele were out of sight, trying to raise money before the reporting period closes next week. Foley contributed $2 million to his own campaign.

Foley, 58, who remarried last year, had time for small talk about his wife’s pregnancy. She is due in December, a month before the next governor will take office and move into the executive residence in Hartford.

“We’re very excited,” said Foley, whose son from his first marriage is 19. “I haven’t changed a diaper in 19 years. I’m signing up for remedial diaper-changing lessons.”

He said he expects to resume television advertising in two weeks, giving him four weeks of television exposure before the Republicans go the polls Aug. 10 to pick their nominee to succeed Gov. M. Jodi Rell.