Former congressional candidate Lisa Wilson Foley and her husband, businessman Brian Foley, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to violating campaign laws during her 2012 campaign.
Wilson Foley admitted in court that she did not report funds that her husband paid to a co-conspirator for his political advice.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice confirms that the co-conspirator is former Connecticut Governor John Rowland. Rowland resigned as governor in 2004 amid a corruption scandal. He pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges and spent 10 months in federal prison.
According to court documents, over a one year period beginning in 2011 Rowland was paid $35,000 in consulting fees for allegedly working for Foley’s nursing home.
In late 2012, investigators began questioning whether or not those fees were actually unreported compensation paid to Rowland by Wilson Foley for aiding her on her unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District.
Part of the conspiracy, according the investigators, was that Rowland provide nominal services to the nursing home in order to create a cover that he was being paid for those services and not for his work on behalf of the Wilson Foley campaign.
Legal analyst Jim Bergenn says hiring Rowland for a political campaign is legal.
"He's supposed to be able to provide his value to the business and he's supposed to be able to provide his value to the campaign," says the longtime Hartford attorney and law professor.
Bergenn says the crux of the prosecution's case against Rowland is based on what he believed he was being paid for.
"Whether or not his mens rea, his intention, was to not provide value fairly compensated on the one hand in order to provide value on the campaign."
Bergenn believes that Rowland is the government's ultimate target, and prosecutors went after the Foleys as way to build case against him.
"To get these people to make that decision to admit that their mens rea was a crime, really is very helpful to the government, and it really makes it more difficult for John Rowland," says Bergenn
In Wilson Foley’s plea agreement, she states that she believed that if she disclosed that Rowland was working for her campaign that it would be met with negativity in the press and by the public due to Rowland’s previous felony offense.
In order to conceal this, she agreed to have her husband’s company pay for Rowland’s services.
According to court documents, Foley made payments to Rowland for his work on his wife’s campaign in the excess of legal contribution limits. Those payments were routed through the real estate company owned by Foley. Failure to report campaign expenditures in federal law is a violation of campaign law.
The Foleys are scheduled to be sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton in Bridgeport on June 23 and face a maximum prison term of one year and a fine of up to $100,000.
The Hartford Courant reports that people familiar with the case say Rowland has discussed a possible plea bargain with federal prosecutors.