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Fed Probes Cast Shadow In Congressional Race

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Businessperson Lisa Wilson-Foley. Photo by WTIC's Matt Dwyer.

Businessperson Lisa Wilson-Foley. Photo by WTIC’s Matt Dwyer.

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JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Federal investigations are casting shadows over two candidates’ campaigns in the closely watched 5th Congressional District, an unusual development for a single race in a state dubbed “Corrupticut” after an earlier outbreak of scandals.

Former Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned in 2004 and later served time in federal prison on a corruption-related charge, is once again the center of a federal investigation. A federal grand jury is looking into consulting work that Rowland performed for a nursing home company owned by the spouse of Republican 5th Congressional District candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley, her husband confirmed Monday.

“It’s just the last thing I think Connecticut right now needs in terms of publicity,” said Gary Rose, a professor of politics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. “It does very little to enhance the image of Connecticut politics at a time when we desperately need to improve that.”

Recalling the “Corrupticut” label, Rose said, “I was really hoping that we had put that behind us … It just gives the state as a whole sort of a black eye.”

On May 31, prosecutors announced they had arrested Robert Braddock, former finance director of House Speaker Chris Donovan, the Democrats’ endorsed candidate, charging Braddock with conspiring with others to hide the source of $20,000 in campaign contributions. The money was tied to legislation that would have raised taxes on roll-your-own smoke shop owners;

“With two federal investigations, it’s a really unique situation. I’ve never heard of it,” said Mike Clark, a former candidate in the race and a retired FBI agent who played a key role in many of the earlier corruption investigations.

Clark, a Republican, dropped out of the hotly contested race and endorsed state Sen. Andrew Roraback, who received the party’s endorsement.

The northwestern Connecticut district is an open seat in a district relatively split between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans have said they believe they have their best opportunity in years to win back the seat and break the Democratic stranglehold on the state’s congressional delegation.

While neither Donovan nor Wilson-Foley have been accused of any wrongdoing, Rose said the investigations could derail their campaigns. He said voters might not want to take a risk on the candidates, and they may have trouble fundraising.

But Chris Kukk, a professor of political science at Western Connecticut State University, said it’s early enough in the campaign season for the candidates to recover. He said the investigations will further fuel voter cynicism, but don’t rise to the level of past cases that scarred Connecticut’s image.

In addition to Rowland, two mayors, the former state treasurer, a state senator and numerous associates of the officials were convicted of corruption and other misconduct.

Wilson-Foley said the federal investigation was not affecting her campaign.

“I think it is a distraction,” Wilson-Foley said Tuesday. “The voters don’t care about inside politics. They care about their personal issues.”

Brian Foley said his firm, Apple Rehab, was asked two months ago to provide documents about the six-month contract Rowland had with the company. The former Republican governor was paid $5,000 a month for his services while he was also a volunteer for Wilson-Foley’s campaign.

Contacted by email about the investigation into his consulting work, Rowland said Monday, “That’s news to me.” He later denied being contacted by federal authorities or having received a subpoena.

In April, Wilson-Foley disclosed that Rowland, a longtime family friend, was paid to work as a consultant to her husband’s company for six months, ending in March. Brian Foley said Rowland consulted on labor relations issues and visited health care facilities, providing feedback on business development initiatives.

Wilson-Foley campaign adviser Chris Healy reiterated on Monday that the arrangement had nothing to do with Rowland’s volunteer work on the campaign. Rowland has since stepped down as a volunteer. Healy said the Wilson-Foley campaign has not been contacted by the grand jury or any other federal authorities.

“It’s an Apple issue,” he said.

Brian Foley said the documents requested by the grand jury were related to the contract with Rowland. Foley said he’s “optimistic about the outcome” based on what the grand jury asked for from Apple Rehab, but he did not want to elaborate.

Donovan has denied any knowledge of the alleged campaign finance scheme and has vowed to press ahead with his campaign. Braddock’s attorney has maintained that his client is innocent.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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