Chris Healy, the former Republican state chairman who was a senior adviser to the ill-fated congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley, will be a communication and policy analyst for the state Senate Republican minority.
Sen. Len Fasano of North Haven, the incoming minority leader, said he hired Healy to give the caucus an experienced political and media strategist for the term that begins Jan. 7. But Healy also brings political baggage: Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign was derailed by a scandal over the role played by former Gov. John G. Rowland.
Fasano says he was satisfied after extensive discussions with Healy and and Healy’s lawyer about the Wilson-Foley campaign that Healy did nothing to disqualify him as a top Senate GOP aide. Healy will be a strategist and analyst and will not be the public voice of the caucus.
Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty to conspiring to conceal payments to Rowland for campaign consulting that were made through Foley’s nursing home chain. Rowland denied any wrongdoing, but he was convicted in September on seven felony charges.
Foley testified that he paid Rowland through his company, because the former governor’s resignation and guilty plea to corruption charges in 2004 made him a political liability as a paid campaign staffer.
Fasano said he did see a need to examine Healy’s role in the Wilson-Foley campaign before hiring him for what is a new position in the caucus.
“He allowed 100-percent full access to his lawyer. He waived privileged communications, allowed me to look at that,” Fasano said. Healy’s lawyer was John F. Droney Jr., the former Democratic state chairman.
Healy denied to reporters during the campaign that Rowland was a paid staffer. He was not immediately available Tuesday, but he said in March after Wilson-Foley and Foley pleaded guilty that he did not mislead the press.
Wilson-Foley and Foley addressed the campaign staff and told them that Rowland was not being paid, Healy said.
“We were told that was not the case,” Healy said of the claim that Rowland was a paid campaign advisor, not a volunteer. “It was the case of him working for Brian separately and his volunteering. We had no reason to doubt their veracity.”
Healy was not charged in the case and was not called to testify at Rowland’s trial, but emails he wrote during the campaign were used as evidence and prosecutors referred to him as an unindicted co-conspirator.
In one email sent months before Rowland’s involvement in the campaign became public, Healy alerted Rowland in December of 2011 that he had been asked about the former governor’s involvement in the campaign.
“At a party last night, [a political associate] said there was talk about your role in [WILSON-FOLEY’s] campaign being subsidized by [FOLEY] and [WILSON-FOLEY] enterprises. I said it was news to me as well as your role. Not sure [political associate] believed me, but I gave it a shot. I have not completely reviewed Lisa’s response if asked, but we should have something[.]”
Rowland’s response: “interesting, where do you think he got info?”
Healy is a former newspaper reporter, congressional aide, campaign manager and lobbyist who was the state GOP chairman from 2007 to 2011 while Republican M. Jodi Rell was governor.
One of his recent lobbying clients was the National Popular Vote campaign, an effort to enlist states in a compact committing them to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote in presidential elections.
Healy will be paid $81,000, Fasano said. The position is new, but Fasano said it represents a redistribution of the caucus’ spending as other staff depart. By picking up a seat in the 2014 election, the caucus is entitled to a slightly higher budget, he said.
Republicans will hold 15 seats in the 36-member Senate when the General Assembly opens its 2015 session on Jan. 7 — the same day Rowland is to be sentenced.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Rowland faces a sentence ranging between 30 and 37 months in prison.
The guidelines recommend a sentence of at least 10 months for Wilson-Foley and 12 months for Foley. Both pleaded to a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in prison.