by Jennifer Swift
Apr 16, 2014
08:56 AMConnecticut Politics
Mark Boughton on Lisa Wilson-Foley Donation: 'I would send back the check'
If he could, gubernatorial hopeful Mark Boughton would refund money his exploratory committee received from Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, who pleaded guilty as part of a campaign finance scheme last month.
But he can’t, because he spent it already.
“If there was a way to return the money, we would,” said Boughton, Republican mayor of Danbury. “The committee’s closed out, you can’t go back, so there’s no money to be able to refund — but certainly, that would be something we would do. If the checked showed up in the mail today, I would send it back.”
Campaign finance reports from “Explore Team Boughton,” the exploratory committee created as Boughton tested the waters for a run at governor, show Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, each donated $375 to the exploratory committee last fall. That committee has since closed, and a separate candidate committee has been created for Boughton’s run for governor.
“Those monies are already gone,” Boughton’s campaign manager Heath Fahle said. “None of those moved into the candidate committee.”
Wilson-Foley, also a Republican, and her husband last month pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegal campaign contributions. Prosecutors said they set up a scheme and phony contract to hide the fact that ex-Gov. John G. Rowland was being paid to work on her own political campaign for the state’s congressional 5th District.
Rowland is facing seven charges in the incident and has pleaded not guilty. He faces more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Boughton said he accepted the funds from the Foleys at the time without question.
“It’s not like I’m the only person who took a donation from Lisa and Brian, and it seems like some people have an issue with just me doing it. ... It’s what they did. They would donate money to various campaigns,” he said, and at the time, his campaign didn’t question “motivations” for why someone would donate.
But when rumors started to rise about an arrangement with Rowland, he asked about it — and was lied to, he said.
“People are innocent until proven guilty. ... When this all broke back in 2012, I went to them and asked them directly, ‘What’s the story? Is this, what we’re hearing from Jordan Fenster true? What’s the story?’” Boughton said. “And they said, ‘No, no, no, not true,’ and they maintained that all the way through two years, up until they walked into the courtroom.”
Fenster was a reporter for The Register Citizen reporting on Wilson-Foley’s campaign and broke news of the arrangement between Wilson-Foley and Rowland and the investigation into the arrangement. Rowland was paid thousands of dollars through Brian Foley’s company for alleged consulting work, in order to not have the campaign linked to Rowland, who had served prison time for corruption.
The paper wrote an editorial this week criticizing Boughton for, among other things, his prior support for Wilson-Foley and receipt of help from her.
Boughton responded with a letter to the editor saying his campaign had not received funds from Wilson-Foley, her husband or Rowland. That’s true, though he did receive money to his exploratory committee from Wilson-Foley and Foley.
Candidates in an exploratory committee can accept up to $375, according to state rules. Those candidates wishing to participate in the citizen’s election program can only accept donations up to $100 in “qualifying donations” that can follow them when they become a declared candidate. They can’t take donations greater than $100 with them to the formal committee. Therefore, money donated by Wilson-Foley and her husband are not included in his current campaign, and were spent when he was deciding whether to run.
“None of them (Rowland, Wilson-Foley, Foley) have contributed to our committee. The exploratory committee, with was a different committee is already closed and operated under different rules from the candidate committee,” Fahle said. “Those funds would have been spent in the pursuit of testing the waters to see if there was sufficient support for the mayor’s candidacy statewide.”Mark Boughton on Lisa Wilson-Foley Donation: 'I would send back the check'