Columnist’s Note: In June 2012, I filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against WTIC-1080AM, arguing that the radio station violated federal election law because its agent, talk show host John Rowland, struck a secret deal to campaign for Republican Congressional Candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley. It appeared that Rowland gave Foley free air time. The FEC rejected my complaint on February 25, 2014. I filed this following appeal with the FEC on April 24, 2014 (to which I have made minor modifications regarding the attachments, instead noted as links). Any errors here are in the letter, and I will not modify it here for cleanliness. I wear my proofreading mistakes.
The purpose of this letter is to appeal the Federal Election Commission’s decision in MUR 6604, dated February 25, 2014. A copy of the complaint, with this letter, is here.
The FEC 2014 found no violations of election law in MUR 6604, based essentially on the press exception. The FEC sent me correspondence indicating its final decision, but due to an address change, I never received notice from the FEC. It was not until April 7, 2014, when the New York Times called to interview me about the final decision, that I learned of this. Alison Leigh Cowan’s article “Inquiry Implicating Rowland, Ex-Connecticut Governor, Offers Look at a 2012 Race” dated April 8, 2014 is here.
The Times took an interest in the FEC’s investigation of John Rowland and WTIC’s potentially illegal use of airwaves in MUR 6604 because a witness in this case, Lisa Wilson-Foley, pled guilty to violations of federal election law on March 31, 2014. Wilson-Foley was a Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District in 2012. Her activities in part were the subject of MUC-6604. I do not herein attach a copy of the federal indictment against Lisa Wilson-Foley. Court records identify a co-conspirator number one, who is now known to John G. Rowland. See U.S.A. v. Brian Foley and Lisa Wilson-Foley, US District Court, District of Connecticut, 3:14 CR here.
On August 22, 2012, Lisa Wilson-Foley argued to the FEC made in the course of this investigation that there was no basis for my complaint. However, this argument from her counsel Attorney Benjamin Proto, occurred when she was presumed innocent of violations of federal law. She has now pled guilty. This changes the framing of her argument, and the guilty plea represents a material change in facts which merits a reconsideration of the FEC’s decision in MUR 6604.
The guilty plea by Wilson-Foley and her husband to hide campaign donations to pay John Rowland under the table demonstrates an essential element of my original complaint, which is that John Rowland was working for Lisa Wilson-Foley. Rowland thus had a cognizable bias in the 2012 congressional election, and any statements he made on the air in reference to that 2012 Republican congressional primary needed to have been accounted for. It would seemingly be impossible for the political commentator to hide behind the journalistic exception when he was being paid for his speech.
Benjamin Proto’s zealous defense of Wilson-Foley states that “the Complainant alleges that based on those media reports, Rowland ‘seems’ to have used his position as a talk show host to perform paid services for the campaign.” With Wilson-Foley’s guilty plea, it is now clear as day that Rowland performed paid services for Wilson-Foley’s campaign. The Wilson-Foley guilty plea makes it abundant that Rowland was in her pocket. The question now becomes whether the contract between Rowland and Wilson-Foley called for him to use all of his available assets, including air time.
Wilson-Foley originally purported that the written contract between her husband’s nursing home and Rowland was for nursing home consulting. Based on the guilty plea, we know this was a sham, and there was a second contract for Rowland’s campaign consulting services. Did Wilson-Foley expect Rowland to use his air time for her benefit? Did Rowland promise he would talk use his access to air time for her benefit? If so, this is political speech which is not protected by the journalistic exception, and WTIC needs to be held to account.
It is important to note that Rowland has now been indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office in Connecticut for violations of federal election law. Rowland of course has proclaimed his innocence and will take the matter to trial. However, two co-conspirators have pled guilty. A copy of this indictment is not attached, but available here, U.S.A. v. John G. Rowland, US District Court, District of Connecticut, 3:14 CR (79). Thus, it seems that Rowland’s handwritten defense in MUR 6604, dated September 13, 2012, must be reconsidered as well.
The payments by Wilson-Foley to Rowland cast doubt on WTIC’s reliance on the media exception. I understand the First Amendment basis for the defenses that WTIC and Rowland and Wilson-Foley have made. However, I am also clear on the fact that federal law requires a disclsoure where paid political speech is made on airwaves. How are listeners to differentiate between paid political speech and unpaid political speech when the payments are made under the table? I also made a complaint in 2012 to the Federal Communications Commission, which I felt was wrongly dismissed. In light of these guilty pleas, the FCC needs to re-examine its position in this matter. I include a copy of that FCC complaint herein.
When WTIC first became aware of the allegations made by Mike Clark in this campaign, it had the duty to undertake a complete investigation of the journalistic integrity of John Rowland, to enjoy this journalistic privilege. WTIC failed to do so in 2012. WTIC in April 2012 said it stood behind John Rowland. Again, after Lisa Wilson-Foley pled guilty in 2014, WTIC knew John Rowland was a named co-conspirator, WTIC kept him on the air for days after the news was made public. On April 1, 2014, said “We have spoken with Mr. Rowland and his representatives and are monitoring the situation closely. Mr. Rowland is expected back on the air this afternoon.”
I listened to Rowland’s radio show myself on April 1, 2014, the day after the guilty pleas of his co-conspirators became public. All Rowland could offer was “I won’t be discussing the recent news and legal developments. I’m sure you all understand. I want to respect the process.”
No, I don’t understand. I didn’t then, and I don’t now. Had Rowland respected the process, this appeal and reconsideration would not be necessary. John Rowland and WTIC have never respected the process, or the public’s right to clean airwaves free from political payola. Rush Limbaugh is free to spew venom because he does not accept money from the Republican Party, and when he does, those ads are clearly marked. Here, John Rowland took money from a political candidate and did not indicate that his speech was so motivated by this lucre.
I would ask the FEC to interview former GOP candidate Andrew Roraback, who is now a Connecticut Superior Court judge, to complete the investigation. I would ask the FEC to re-interview Wilson-Foley to determine if her under-the-table gambit with Rowland included him using the airwaves. We cannot and should not expect veracity from Rowland.
It is a great privilege and honor to have 50,000 watts supporting your speech, carried for miles across the great state of Connecticut. It is devious and quite illegal to sell surreptitiously your use of those airwaves to the highest political bidder and then claim the shield of journalistic integrity. Most of John Rowland’s afternoon talk show on WTIC 1080-AM enjoyed the protection of the First Amendment and the journalistic exception. But comments in relation to the Fifth Congressional District race in 2012 were clearly motivated by payment from a candidate, and thus fall outside of the free-speech safe harbor.
Therefore, I reclaim my original complaint, and again ask the FEC to investigate any in-kind contributions of air-time by CBS Radio, Inc. and its employee John Rowland to the Wilson-Foley campaign for campaign related activities would be in violation of 11 CFR 114.2.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions. The foregoing facts are true to the best of my knowledge.
Kenneth J. Krayeske, Esq.
cc: Sen. Richard Blumenthal
Sen. Christopher Murphy
Rep. John Larson
Rep. Rosa DeLauro
Rep. Jim Himes
Rep. Joe Courtney
Rep. Elizabeth Esty
Attorney Benjamin Proto
The Federal Communications Commission
Jan Witold Baran, Wiley Rein LLP