Radio silence for Rowland on Wilson-Foley case

Congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley said Tuesday that federal investigators want to know what former Gov. John G. Rowland did to earn $30,000 in consulting fees from her husband, Brian Foley.

News broke Monday about a federal investigation into the Rowland-Foley business relationship, but Wilson-Foley said investigators first approached her husband weeks ago as she was preparing for a GOP convention.

“They were asking what John did,” Wilson-Foley said.


John G. Rowland (WTIC photo)

Wilson-Foley, one of four candidates on the ballot for a Republican primary in the 5th District on Aug. 14, said she campaigned for weeks knowing about the existence of a federal investigation.

“I’ve known about it,” Wilson-Foley said. “I was told not to say anything about it, so I didn’t.”

Wilson-Foley spent the day Tuesday talking to reporters about the investigation, which is the second federal inquiry involving a congressional campaign in the 5th District.

But Rowland, the host of an afternoon drive-time talk show on the state’s most powerful AM radio station, WTIC, spent his politically oriented show ignoring the day’s political story — him.

One of the issues in the federal investigation is whether Rowland’s consulting fees from Foley were an off-the-books payment for political assistance given to Wilson-Foley, either on or off the air.

Wilson-Foley’s campaign has said Rowland, who was described as an old family friend, had been an unpaid campaign volunteer.

If WTIC has any concerns or questions about whether Rowland used its airwaves to improperly promote Wilson-Foley, it is not saying.

“We are declining to comment,” said Jenneen Lee, the station’s program director.

Rowland, who served 10 months in federal prison on federal corruption charges after resigning July 1, 2004, did not respond to a request for comment made through his producer.

The small world that is Connecticut politics has seemed especially small this year in the 5th District race.

One of the Republican candidates for the open seat was Mike Clark, a retired FBI agent who supervised the bureau’s investigation of Rowland. The former governor resigned facing an impeachment inquiry and federal probe.

In April, Clark filed an elections complaint, questioning if Wilson-Foley’s husband was buying Rowland’s services for his wife’s campaign. On April 25, Wilson-Foley’s campaign released a consulting contract.

The contract was between Rowland and a lawyer, Christian B. Shelton of Branford, but Wilson-Foley’s campaign said Shelton was acting as an agent for her husband’s health care company, Apple Rehab.

The document committed Shelton to pay Rowland $5,000 a month for six months, beginning Oct. 1, 2011.

Wilson-Foley said she could not recall exactly when federal agents approached her husband, other than it was after an April 30 debate and before the May 18 convention, where state Sen. Andrew Roraback was endorsed.

“They interviewed him and asked him for documents,” she said. Of Rowland, she said, “John did a job. He did a very good job, and the job was over.”

Wilson-Foley and her campaign spokesman, Chris Healy, said the federal agents have not questioned the candidate or anyone on her campaign.

Clark dropped out of the race in May after failing to win sufficient delegate support at the GOP convention to automatically qualify for a primary, but a candidate still in the race, Mark Greenberg, also is playing a role.

Greenberg, who also ran for Congress in 2010, said Rowland approached him before that run and suggested Greenberg hire him as a consultant — but that he be paid through Greenberg’s nonprofit foundation, not his campaign.

Greenberg says he declined.

The existence of the investigation was first reported Monday by Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie, a former Republican state senator, in his blog, Daily Ructions.

Hours later, Greenberg said federal investigators had contacted him in the case. A source close to Greenberg said the investigators subpoenaed copies of emails with Rowland from 2010.

For the moment, at least, the investigation has overshadowed a separate investigation by the FBI into campaign contributions to House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan of Meriden, one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.

Donovan’s former campaign finance director was arrested, but Donovan has not been implicated.

Meanwhile, one of the other Democrats in the race, political newcomer Dan Roberti, tried to capitalize Tuesday on the difficulties of Donovan and Wilson-Foley by calling for tighter ethics rules.

But Roberti spent most of his press conference answering questions about fundraising assistance from his father, Vince Roberti, who is a federal lobbyist and key fundraiser for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.