After The Hanging Shad twice request comment from WTC-AM radio officials about their afternoon drive political talk show host working for a political campaign, they’ve broken their silence on the issue. And it’s less than persuasive.
Former Gov. John Rowland is helping the candidacy of Lisa Wilson-Foley. The Shad has questioned whether it’s ethical for Rowland to discuss the race without disclosing he backs one candidate. WTIC-AM Program Director Jeneen Lee said, “He actually stays away from it on purpose,” Lee said (although not in response in my requests). “To date, there’s been no conversation on the air about the campaign.” Well, in the spirit of Bill Clinton (“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is…”), Rowland may not have discussed the race per se, but isn’t hammering away on Wilson-Foley’s opponents also ethically troubling?
For Rowland, on his radio show, it’s been open season on state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-Goshen), considered by many to be the favorite in the Republican primary and therefore Wilson-Foley’s main competition. Dating backing to October when Roraback announced he was running, both Wilson-Foley and Rowland have been lighting him up for his position on repealing the state’s death penalty; Roraback’s record is that he favored repeal. In the end, he voted against repeal. For Wilson-Foley, that’s fine (although it’s become an obsession). For Rowland, it’s questionable at best.
Technically, the death penalty repeal issue is a function of the state Senate and House and as such, isn’t “discussing the race.” But is a main issue in the congressional race. At one point, Rowland even gave out Roraback’s cell phone number and invited listeners to call—and did so without disclosing his role in the Wilson-Foley campaign according to listeners contacted by The Hanging Shad. Let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that as a radio host, you just don’t do that. Giving out the personal cell phone number of a newsmaker and/or guest on your show is just plain wrong and was clearly an effort to annoy, obstruct and damage Roraback’s campaign.
There remain several other problems here for WTIC and Rowland. First, program director Lee says Rowland disclosed his role “months ago.” Actually, no, he didn’t. Both Rowland and Wilson-Foley strategist Chris Healey said Rowland was simply “offering advice” to the candidate. Turns, out, he is doing much more than that. He is actively calling Republican town committee members and chairs across the state urging them to back his candidate. He is also attending town committee meetings with Wilson-Foley.
Further, Lee seems to think it’s not a problem because Rowland isn’t getting paid by the campaign. Actually, yes it is. It matters not that he is a “volunteer,” He needs to disclose his role when even coming close to talking about the race. That includes when he is blasting one of her opponents. One newspaper’s blog on the race quotes Quinnipiac University’s Rich Hanley, an expert in this area. Nice to see they’re reading The Hanging Shad. Rowland has shown himself—as governor—to be ethically challenged at best; more accurately, a crook who served his time. You’d think WTIC-AM, a legendary, heritage radio station, would know better than to allow Rowland to use its airwaves to further his interests. Ah, but ratings rule. When they are up, they trump ethics.