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Former Gov. Rowland back in court

By PAT EATON-ROBB Associated Press

Publication: The Day

Published September 04. 2014 4:00AM
Brian A. Pounds/AP Photo
Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland and his wife, Patty, exit federal court Wednesday in New Haven.
Candidate claims Rowland sought improper pay for helping campaign

New Haven - A Republican running for Congress testified Wednesday that former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland proposed becoming a consultant to his 2010 campaign while being paid as though he was working for the candidate's animal rescue organization.

Mark Greenberg said he turned down the proposal from Rowland, whose career as an elected official ended a decade ago in a corruption scandal, resignation and 10 months in federal prison for taking illegal gifts while in office.

Greenberg said the contract would have paid Rowland about $720,000 (up to $35,000 a month), ostensibly for fundraising and other work at the shelter. Greenberg said Rowland's actual role would have been as an adviser to his 5th District campaign, helping him secure delegates, donations and giving him other advice.

He agreed on cross-examination that the contract was broad and could be read to include political work. He also acknowledged that he could have reported any payments to federal elections officials.

"He made it clear that he would not be paid by the campaign," said Greenberg, who testified he never would have paid Rowland from any entity other than the campaign.

Greenberg, who is running for the same seat this year, was the first witness Wednesday in Rowland's federal trial. The Republican ex-governor is charged with seven federal counts, including obstruction of justice and conspiracy to violate election laws related to Greenberg's 2010 campaign and the 2012 campaign of another Republican congressional candidate, Lisa Wilson-Foley.

During opening statements Wednesday, Rowland's attorney, Reid Weingarten, said Rowland committed no crime, because he never worked for Greenberg and volunteered for Wilson-Foley's campaign while doing legitimate work for a nursing home chain owned by her husband.

Prosecutors said they will prove Rowland offered an improper deal to Greenberg and hid $35,000 in payments from Wilson-Foley through a phony contract with Brian Foley's business.

Prosecutors presented the jury numerous emails from Rowland, including one to Greenberg that read in part, "I can get you elected ... if you are interested."

Other emails to Wilson-Foley discussed talking points if anyone questioned their relationship.

"I am just a volunteer helping you and many other Republican candidates in case anyone asks," Rowland wrote in one email. "I want to avoid a bad article."

Greenberg testified that, when he heard about Rowland's deal with Wilson-Foley, it was "deja vu all over again." He said he told his delegates in 2012 to support another candidate, Andrew Roraback, in part because he didn't want to have a congresswomen who had entered such an agreement with Rowland.

Weingarten told jurors that Rowland was a volunteer for Wilson-Foley, a longtime friend. He said he also was paid by Brian Foley to provide him with advice on the changing landscape in the health care industry and dealing with the health care workers union, something Rowland had experience with as governor.

"He earned every penny," Weingarten said. "It is also true that he helped out with campaign. It was a labor of love."

If Brian Foley meant to use the payments to ensure that Rowland kept volunteering for the campaign, Rowland knew nothing about it, Weingarten said.

He said Foley used Rowland as a scapegoat to escape a felony conviction. He and his wife pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor of conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions. Weingarten said they got away not with a slap on the wrist but with a "wet kiss on the lips" by giving Rowland to the government.

Foley is expected to be the government's key witness. He could take the stand as early as Friday.

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