Disgraced governor helps fellow ex-cons
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Fresh off his second stint in federal custody, former Gov. John Rowland now is working as a fundraiser for a Christian group that helps convicts return to their communities and turn their lives around.
The 61-year-old Republican was released May 25, nearly a year early from his 30-month sentence for conspiring to hide his political consulting roles in two failed congressional campaigns. He previously served 10 months in prison in a corruption scandal that forced him to resign as governor in 2004.
Rowland began working this month for Prison Fellowship, said Craig DeRoche, the group’s senior vice president of advocacy and public policy and former speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.
“He has a background and experience that would help us in our mission,” DeRoche said. “What we find is that people who have experience working in government … as well as experience in prison can help change the prison system for the better for the people who are in the system today.”
Rowland, who is working from his home in Southbury, is raising money for Prison Fellowship, and maintaining and establishing relationships with people who help provide the group’s services, DeRoche said.
Rowland did not return phone and email messages from The Associated Press.
He told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview that his second time in prison was a “humiliating” experience, but also “a good experience in that it gives me a chance to refocus myself to be a better person, to contribute to society in a different way.”
“I would just stay away from politics. It’s my drug of choice sometimes,” Rowland said. “It’s intoxicating, and it’s exciting. But there are times when you have to walk away from it and have to decide to do something different and better with your life.”
Prison Fellowship, based in Lansdowne, Virginia, describes itself as a faith-based group that works inside and outside prisons to help inmates return to their communities. It was founded in 1976 by the late Charles Colson, a former top aide to President Richard Nixon who served seven months in prison on a Watergate-related charge.
Staff and volunteers run programs in hundreds of prisons and jails including Bible studies and life-skills classes. In communities, the group coordinates with churches and other organizations to build local support networks for former prisoners and also helps their families.
Rowland was governor from 1995 to 2004 and was considered a rising star in the GOP. He was elected as a state representative at age 23, served three terms in the U.S. House and became the state’s youngest governor at age 37. He was mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate or cabinet member.
But he resigned in 2004 amid a corruption scandal that sent him to prison for 10 months for taking more than $100,000 worth of illegal gifts while in office including private flights to Las Vegas and repairs and a hot tub at his vacation cottage.
He later regained some popularity as a radio show host.
In 2014, he was convicted by a federal jury of plotting to hide political consulting roles through sham contracts in the failed 5th Congressional District campaigns of Lisa Wilson-Foley in 2012 and Mark Greenberg in 2010.
Prosecutors said Rowland was paid $35,000 for political consulting for Wilson-Foley, but the payment was disguised in a contract between Rowland and Wilson-Foley’s husband, who owned a nursing home chain, over concerns about negative publicity. Greenberg said he declined a similar proposal by Rowland.