John Rowland is once again heading to the Big House. Beyond the head-shaking and hand-wringing going on now, past the “Oh it’s so sad,” “How could this happen?” and “I feel for his family,” is the simple fact that other people were deeply impacted by his actions. Here are a few:
• Jodi Rell and the people of Connecticut. When Rell became governor, it was quickly apparent she was not-ready-for-prime-time and was in way over her head. I still can’t believe people actually bought the line that she knew nothing about Rowland’s shenanigans. People simply dismissed the fact that she was up to her eye balls in some things particularly the infamous green Mustang Rowland received for his 40th birthday.
Rell in fact led the fundraising effort to buy Rowland the car. The Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender wrote in 2003, “…Rowland was advised of a plan by Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell and others to solicit funds from his friends to restore an old Mustang for a birthday gift…she [Rell] said it was a personal loan, but did not know from whom—to pay for the car at the value it was worth.” And we were supposed to believe that Rell was ignorant of what Rowland was doing? The prevailing thought in 2004 should have been, “If she knew what he was doing, she’s guilty of aiding and abetting. If she didn’t know, she is too clueless to be governor.”
• State workers. Many state employees tell me it was a struggle to get back their credibility after the first Rowland affair. Their reputations were tarnished through no fault of their own. People lost faith in state government and by association, state workers were thought to be guilty.
One heart-breaking story was recently told to me by a state worker. “I witnessed first-hand the collateral damage Rowland left in his wake,” the worker told me. “I was there as FBI agents investigated our agency and my co-workers, one of whom, [name deleted], committed suicide, a death [I] and many of us feel was directly related to her involvement in Rowland’s schemes.
“After [Rowland] resigned, we were left with a badly broken agency that lost our credibility and dignity. Those of us who were dedicated and hard-working were all made to prove ourselves ‘innocent’ and worthy in an atmosphere with poor morale and management disdain for us wee folk in the rank and file,” he said. Wow. Stunningly sad.
• Kevin Sullivan. If anyone was negatively impacted by Rowland’s demise, it was Sullivan. He is now Gov. Dan Malloy’s commissioner of revenue services but at the time he was the Democratic senate president (and full disclosure, I was Sullivan’s communications director).
Sullivan, who should have run for Congress or governor himself, was “elevated” to the position of lieutenant governor. The LG spot is not unlike being vice president which John Nance Garner once described as “not worth a bucket of warm piss” (the quote was later cleaned up to be “warm spit”).
Sullivan was relegated to a fairly powerless spot that saw him battling with Rell, a Republican. There were times when I would joke with Sullivan that when Rell left the state, he should “have at it.”
• Radio station WTIC-AM and its listeners. When Rowland got out of the pokey and was given the afternoon drive time spot on the station, I congratulated him and wished him well, thinking he and Pastor Will Marotti was offer the audience a well-informed, fair airing of ideas. How wrong I was.
Rowland and Marotti’s show quickly became nothing more than a platform for the Republican Party. The pair had no shame in distorting and outright lying about certain issues (Marotti remains on the air in the afternoon). They would never have as a guest anyone who could challenge them with the truth.
The latest Rowland trial laid bare the fact that he used the station to further his own financial interests and that’s pathetic. WTIC mainstays such as Ray Dunaway (the best in the business), Jim Vicevich (I almost always disagreed with him but he is “good radio”) and Joe D’Ambrosio deserved better.
As someone who spent 10 years in radio and often guest-hosted on WTIC in the time slot occupied by Rowland, I am personally offended. Rowland perpetuated a fraud on the station and its listeners and that’s just sad.
• Mark Greenberg. The Republican candidate for Congress was distracted in mid-campaign by having to testify in Rowland’s latest circus. Greenberg was approached by Rowland in 2010 with the same scheme eventually bought into by Lisa Wilson-Foley in 2012.
Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty has been having field day with the Rowland-Greenberg connection, churning out news releases calling on Greenberg to “come clean” about his relationship with Rowland and capitalizing on the fact that Greenberg testified he was intimidated by Rowland and left it to underlings to reject Rowland’s offer. Greenberg was honest and told the truth. He’s paying for it now.
In my view, it’s rather lame on Esty’s part. Stick to the issues. There’s plenty of material to work with as Greenberg is very red in the bluest of blue states.
Yes, John Rowland is heading to the Big House as many others pick up the pieces.