The resignation of Connecticut Gov. John Rowland was probably inevitable and therefore not surprising. If anything, I was mostly surprised that he held on for so long in today’s media culture where the hint of a scandal can sometimes produce a feeding frenzy.
But this wasn’t really a feeding frenzy, at least not on a national level. The charges leveled against Rowland - that he lied about getting gifts and favors from friends, state contractors and state employees - didn’t get too many people excited outside of the Nutmeg State.
I had an inkling that it would come to this, however, because of my personal experience with the typical Connecticut Yankee’s intolerance for these types of scandals. In April of 1992, I was working as a young reporter for a chain of weekly papers along the Connecticut coastline.
Once I was called to fill in for a vacationing reporter at one of the papers and cover a legal hearing in the upscale community of Madison where the local chief of police was in the process of being drummed out of his job. His crime? When the department got new police cruisers from a local dealer (Three 1991 Ford Crown Victoria’s), the chiefs car came with a trunk-mounted, 10-disc compact disc player that the dealer had thrown in.
Now this was back when having a cd player in a car was still kind of unique, and a 10-disc changer was something out of Star Wars. At the hearing I covered, the prosecuting attorney grilled the local dealer about how much the 10-disc changer cost (he refused to say) at a time when AM/FM radios with cassette decks was the standard.
I remember sitting there watching this hearing unfold thinking ‘What’s the big deal’? But obviously folks in Connecticut took this kind of stuff very seriously.
So when I saw what Rowland was charged with I knew his days were numbered. Here is the NYTimes summary:
“(Rowland’s wealthy friends) fixed up his cottage in bucolic Litchfield, where Connecticut's movers and shakers summer, complete with a hot tub given to him by a state employee. The governor got thousands of dollars in Cuban cigars and French champagne, a vintage Ford Mustang convertible and free or discounted vacations at the estates of friends -- contractors who won substantial business from the state.”
So while I’m not trying to defend what Rowland did, I think I can say that a certain former Texas Governor should be thankful that the folks in the Lone Star State were much more lenient about such things.