By SUSAN HAIGH
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The corruption trial that led to last week’s conviction of a former Connecticut governor is reverberating in one of the state’s closest congressional races, with incumbent Rep. Elizabeth Esty attacking challenger Mark Greenberg over testimony he gave in the case against disgraced ex-Gov. John G. Rowland.
Esty, a Democrat representing the 5th Congressional District in western Connecticut, which includes Plainville, has called on Greenberg to provide a more detailed explanation of his dealings with Rowland, who was found guilty of conspiring to be paid for work on political campaigns including Greenberg’s 2010 bid for the U.S. House through fake business deals.
At trial, Greenberg testified that he tore up a contract Rowland had given him for consulting work, believing the proposed $35,000-a-month fee was outrageous. But the Republican said he was “essentially gutless” for not immediately telling Rowland that key members of his campaign he didn’t want the former governor’s help. He acknowledged having trouble with personally rebuffing Rowland.
Laura Maloney, a spokesman for Esty’s campaign, said Greenberg’s relationship with Rowland is an important part of his record.
“We plan to continue to try and hold him accountable,” she said.
Greenberg’s campaign manager, Bill Evans, said Monday that Esty “is simply wrong” about her criticism of his candidate and that Greenberg was “called as a witness for the prosecution after he flatly rejected Rowland’s offer.”
The line of attack from Esty could hurt Greenberg in the corruption-weary 5th District, which has been embroiled in campaign scandals. In 2012, former Democratic House Speaker Christopher Donovan lost the party primary to Esty after his finance director was arrested in connection with a scheme to funnel $28,000 in illegal contributions to Donovan’s 5th District campaign. Eight people were ultimately convicted. Donovan was never charged with any crimes and the case has been closed.
Greenberg has been limited in what he can say in his own defense. His attorney, Winthrop S. Smith Jr., sent a letter to Esty on Monday urging her to cease all calls for Greenberg to discuss the case publicly, given Rowland’s planned legal appeal. He said any discussion of the matters which transpired at trial could impair the government’s case against Rowland.
Evans contends Esty’s various news releases on the subject show that she’s “desperate” to distract attention from her record on jobs and the economy, a key issue in this year’s election. Evans declined to comment further, citing Rowland’s possible appeal in the case, and referred further questions to Smith. Maloney accused Greenberg of “hiding behind his lawyer.”
The two candidates are scheduled to face off for the first time Oct. 9 in Danbury.
Rowland, a former congressman from Waterbury, had approached Greenberg about consulting for his campaign in 2009. But prosecutors said Rowland wanted to make it appear he was paid by Greenberg’s animal rescue organization in order to hide his involvement. It was similar to a 2012 scheme involving Rowland and Republican 5th District candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley, whose husband agreed to pay Rowland through his nursing home chain.