NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Former Gov. John G. Rowland, a rising Republican star before he resigned 10 years ago in a corruption scandal that sent him to prison, was indicted Thursday on charges he tried to hide his role in two congressional campaigns.
A federal grand jury in New Haven returned a seven-count indictment charging Rowland with offenses stemming from his alleged efforts to conceal the extent of his involvement in the campaigns. The indictment, announced by the U.S. attorney's office, alleges Rowland violated federal campaign finance laws in not disclosing his involvement.
The charges are a startling turnabout for Rowland, who had rebuilt his life with a popular radio show and earlier had landed a job as an economic development coordinator after he was released from prison in 2006 after serving 10 months on a corruption-related charge.
Former state Republican chairman Chris DePino said he was saddened by news of the indictment.
"I'm sad for him, I'm sad for his family, I'm sad for the whole set of circumstances," said DePino, who was attending the state GOP's annual Prescott Bush Dinner in Stamford.
Rowland, who was elected governor three times and served as chairman of the national Republican Governors Association, was a friend of former President George H. W. Bush and had been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate or cabinet member. After he was released from prison, he promised "to be a better person."
Rowland is expected to be arraigned Friday on the latest charges. A message left for Rowland's attorney wasn't immediately returned Thursday, and Rowland could not be reached for comment.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called the indictment "another sad chapter in a story that Connecticut knows all too well."
Former Republican congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty March 31 to a scheme to create a phony contract that hid the consulting role prosecutors say Rowland played in her campaign. Authorities say Rowland provided nominal services to Foley's nursing home company to create a cover that he was being paid for those services instead of work for Wilson-Foley's campaign.
Authorities allege that as part of the scheme Rowland proposed that he be hired to work on the political campaign. Wilson-Foley wanted Rowland to work on her 2012 primary campaign but believed that because he had been convicted of a felony disclosure of his paid role in the campaign would result in substantial negative publicity for her candidacy, prosecutors said.
In one email, authorities say, Rowland wrote that "I want to stay under the radar as much as possible" and that "after Clark gets out of the race it can be different."
Mike Clark, a former FBI agent, was a candidate in the Republican primary and filed a federal elections complaint over the payments made to Rowland. Clark also was the agent who investigated the case that sent Rowland to prison.
Rowland was paid about $35,000 for services to the campaign, authorities said. The payments originated with Foley and constituted campaign contributions but were not reported to the Federal Election Commission, in violation of federal campaign finance laws, prosecutors said.
Wilson-Foley, who lost the Republican primary, and her husband each face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 at sentencing.
According to prosecutors, Rowland also devised a scheme to work for the campaign of a candidate seeking election to the same congressional seat during the 2009 and 2010 election cycle and to conceal from the Federal Election Commission and the public the fact that he would be paid to perform that work.
Authorities say Rowland drafted a sham consulting contract in which he would purportedly perform work for an animal center to prevent campaign contributions and expenditures from being reported to the FEC and the public.
Authorities did not identify the candidate, but Mark Greenberg's campaign has said he turned down a proposal by Rowland in which he would help Greenberg's campaign in 2010 and be compensated as a board member of the nonprofit animal shelter that Greenberg and his wife operate. Rowland has denied the claim by Greenberg, whose campaign said he was not a target.
Rowland is charged with two counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years for a conviction on each count; one count of conspiracy, punishable by up to five years in prison; two counts of causing false statements to be made to the FEC, punishable by a maximum sentence of five years on each count; and two counts of causing illegal campaign contributions, which carries a maximum of one year on each count.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh in Stamford contributed to this story.