Sunday, September 21, 2014

Taking the Fifth, The End Of Rowland

Following the John Rowland guilty verdict, a great number of Connecticut’s left of center media adepts were popping champagne corks. Colin McEnroe, whose Christian sympathies appear to have withered on the vine, was not among them:

“So the sentence he [Rowland] will get is implicitly heartbreaking unless you factor in your own outrage at the way things went down in 2004, when a charming (and easily charmed) old softy named Judge Peter Dorsey handed Rowland a year when 5 to 8 would have been generous.

“So I had a glass of red wine at the end of this day, but not a split of champagne.”

Mr. McEnroe also let it be known he was outraged that he was let go from WTIC talk radio some years ago after having given the station fourteen of the best years of his life, and so…

“WTIC was hoping Rowland would be cleared. The opposite has happened. If an underling had handled things so horribly, with such disastrous consequences for the company, the underling would be fired. Management rarely plays a comparable price for its dreadful judgment.

Well now, WTIC did let Mr. Rowland go after he had been formally identified as a co-conspirator back in April. Mr. McEnroe was let go, one must suppose, not because he had been indicted for crimes, but rather because his audience was not large enough to bring in the Bennies. Until he draped a noose around his own neck and invited Connecticut's left of center media to yank on the rope, Mr. Rowland’s audience likely may have been larger and more attentive than Mr. McEnroe’s.

Truly does Genghis Khan say that the most intense joy a man may have is to dance on the dead body of his enemy.

Ghengis McEnroe is not the only one dancing on the corpse of Mr. Rowland.

Nearly every lede introducing nearly every story concerning Mr. Rowland’s corruption trial referred to the Grand Jury indicted Rowland as “former Governor John Rowland,” which was true enough.

However, the criminal indicted by the Star Chamber Grand Jury was a journalist, like radio talk show host Colin McEnroe, not a politician; as such, Mr. Rowland was in no position to dispense “political favors,” as that expression is commonly understood by the virtuous opponents of corruption. As a former, felonious governor, Mr. Rowland could not, for instance, have provided Lisa Wilson Foley with a contract that would benefit her business. A day following the announcement of the jury verdict, the Hartford Courant ran a story on its front page above the fold, “Jumoke Work Given To Relatives.” According to the story, Jumoke, a charter school in Hartford, “directed more than a million dollars in construction work to the husband of one of its executives.” The nepotistic payments  “included at least $85,000 in state grant money used to renovate a Victorian mansion and convert its second floor into an apartment later occupied by the charter group's longtime leader, Michael M. Sharpe. The apartment, built in 2012 to Sharpe's specifications, featured a new $12,000 master bathroom with a custom glass shower door.” The shades of former Governor Rowland’s first conviction are here seen spreading over Hartford’s one party operation.

The collapse of Jumoke is a case of politicians taking care of politicians – or themselves – in a one party town in which Democrats and state prosecutors regularly avert their eyes from political corruption.

Not a politician, Mr. Rowland could and did provide Lisa Wilson Foley with favorable publicity. Had most ledes prior to the guilty verdict rendered by the jury read “former radio talk show host John Rowland,” Mr. McEnroe might have known that WTIC had let Mr. Rowland go long before he had been formally convicted by a jury.

Mr. McEnroe was not the only media personality bumping fists after the jury had returned a verdict that may send a former radio talk show host to prison for as many years as will satisfy current radio talk show hosts who think he was pampered by a solicitous judge the first time Mr. Rowland, then a governor with a promising political career, fell from the sun, his wax wings dissolved by an awakened and enlightened media.

Tom Dudchick, the proprietor of the indispensable “Capitol Report,” a news aggregator, is a master at headlining. Here are the headlines from “Capitol Report” on the day after Mr. Rowland was found guilty of all the charges brought against him:

Lots of fist bumping there, a veritable shower of champagne corks first hitting then falling from the ceiling.

Perusing the “Capitol Report” headlines, one notices that current Speaker of the State House of Representatives, Brendan “The Shark” Sharkey, has taken to heart the suggestion proffered by Mr. McEnroe:“I certainly think [WTIC's owners] have some explaining to do to their listening public. ... I think the listening public should be demanding an explanation and federal communications authorities should be looking into this, as well,’ Sharkey said.”

Given the concerted attack on WTIC talk radio, a conservative oasis in a blistering dessert of progressive political babble, even non- conspiratorial critics may begin to suspect an effort to shut down all vocal opposition to Connecticut’s single party, progressive utopia.

Whence this tsunami of freudenschade?

Connecticut Commentary has reviewed all the stories featured on Capitol Report – and more. So far, only one report critical of the prosecution has emerged from the clustermuck. That one, “Government blows it in closing arguments at Rowland trial,” was written by prosecutorial gadfly Norm Pattis, who has been promoting jury nullification in some of his books.

Prosecutor Christopher Mattei’s closing remarks to the jury – however successful in persuading the jury to return a verdict of guilty – was, in Mr. Pattis’ view a load of warm, steaming bumcombe:

“Prosecutor Christopher Mattei was preaching to a packed house in the New Haven courtroom where Rowland stands trial.

“’This is a case that goes to the very heart of the most basic right we have in America,’ Mattei said. ‘The right to vote, the right to make informed decisions about who is going to represent us.’”
“No it doesn’t, Chris. The case was about a venal former governor trying to make a buck helping a rich man’s wife find her way into Congress…

“’Mr. Rowland sought to deprive voters of … information. He was going to be paid to steer that candidate right into the United States government and he didn’t want anyone to know it,’ Mattei said.

“Wake up, Chris. It happens all the time.”

The real enemy of honest elections, according to Mr. Pattis, is “dark money.” Electoral politics has been corrupted by hidden funds leeching into campaigns from wealthy political kingmakers, George Soros on the left, the Koch brothers on the right.

“Instead of meaningful electoral reform, we get penny ante prosecutions like that of John Rowland. Yes, the former governor is a convicted felon, having spent 10 months in prison for his financial misconduct as governor. Yes, the payments to him most likely should have been reported. But, as Diane Keaton once famously said to Woody Allen, ‘Lah-Dee-Dah.’”

Mr. Pattis, God bless him, can always be expected to sick a sharp pencil in the eye of authoritarian Principals. One suspects he spent a good portion of his High School years in detention pouring over Emile Zola’s “J’Accuse.”

A trial is a play in which two authors, the prosecution and the defense, present to an audience, the jury, two separate variations of a narrative. The jury is expected to choose in favor of the narrative it finds, to use a literary expression, more compelling. This is what we call justice. On appeal, the narrative preferred by the jury is sometimes vacated, usually because of some unjust defect in the legal process itself.

In Mr. Rowland’s case, the prosecution presented to the jury the more compelling narrative. But justice, that golden glimmer in the eye of God, is not always served well by judicial processes – as witness Zola’s “J’Accuse.”

It should be noted, if only in passing, that the prosecution managed to surmount a very high hurdle in the person of Brian Foley, who acknowledged under cross examination that he had hired Mr. Rowland as a consultant for this business and introduced Mr. Rowland to his staff as a consultant. The Chief Financial Officer of Mr. Foley’s business swore under oath that Mr. Rowland had indeed performed the service for which he was hired. Mr. Foley at first, in a series of emails produced at trial, hotly defended the integrity of both Mr.  Rowland and Lisa Wilson Foley, but later underwent a Damascus Road conversion when he was told that the prosecution intended to put his wife in prison for forty years if he declined to support their preferred narrative. Mr. Foley also admitted under oath that he had illegally shuttled money into his wife’s campaign. A deal was struck between the Foleys and the prosecution, the Foleys flipped on their earlier narrative, and the jury found their newly constructed story compelling enough to convict Mr. Rowland on all counts.   

Though it was rarely mentioned in news and commentary accounts, the case against the Foleys was much stronger than the case against Rowland.

The litigation go-round is not over. In American jurisprudence, as in American life in general, nothing is final but death and taxes – if, BIG IF, your money does not run out. Mr. Rowland’s money will run out sooner rather than later.

The Rowland prosecution is but a single chapter in a larger prospective story – “The Taking Of The Fifth” -- that likely will never be written, because while journalism has produced a ton of McEnroes, it seems incapable of producing a single Zola.

In the meantime, should any left of center journalist in Connecticut confess that the end of Mr. Rowland strikes him as sad – such a promising political career gone to waste! – he should be hooted out of court with a laugh loud as cannon shot.

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