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Monday, June 21, 2004  

News and analysis: Downfall of a governor

Connecticut's chief executive may soon be trading Brooks Brothers suits for stripes and his name for a number. He will be resigning from office under an ominous cloud today. The man some people thought might someday become president of the United States will be lucky if he avoids prosecution. Rowland's closest associate pled guilty to federal charges in regard to trading state contracts for profit in March. The governor's house of cards tumbled fast.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland will announce his resignation Monday night, amid a federal corruption investigation and a growing move to impeach him, two sources told The Associated Press.

. . .Rowland, 47, a Republican easily re-elected to a third term in 2002, admitted late last year that he lied about accepting gifts and favors from friends, state contractors and state employees.

State and federal authorities have been investigating those allegations, and a special House committee also has been considering whether to recommend Rowland's impeachment. The committee was scheduled to begin its third week of hearings later Monday.

The announcement comes several days after the state Supreme Court ruled that the legislative panel could compel the governor to testify.

Rowland was once the nation's youngest governor - he was 37 when first elected in 1994 - and considered a rising star in the GOP. He is a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association and was rumored to be considered for several positions in the Bush administration.

Rowland's situation interests me partly because of his use of executive privilege to try to hide his malfeasance. On the national level, we are seeing corrupt Pres. Richard M. Nixon's supposed trump card reemerge as a barrier to the release of information the public has a right to know. The chief executive, George W. Bush, and his staff, including a national security advisor, cite it as grounds for not revealing information that would confirm events preceding and during the invasion of Iraq. Rowland is somewhat novel in attempting to apply the same evasion to unseemly decisions at the state level. His bad decisonmaking was quite personal, despite its political implications. Free lodgings here, there and everywhere. Unpaid work done on a vacation home, including installation of a hot tub. Gratuitous boxes of boxes of Cuban cigars. Rowland would have been the eighth governor ever impeached and removed from office if he had not caved in to pressure. Considering the paucity of similar cases, I don't believe we can call the use of executive privilege to hide malfeasance by governors a slippery slope initiated in national politics, but the issue is worth considering.

The blogosphere being the partisan place it is, some people will wonder if I am writing about Rowland because he has been considered a Great Republican Hope. I am not. I have also expressed concern about the activities of Oregon's favorite son, Neil Goldschmidt, while he was in various offices. Goldschmidt carried on a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl while he was in his thirties and mayor of Portland. With the help of well-placed friends, he was able to keep the rape of a child secret for nearly 30 years. Continuing investigations reveal the man Goldschmidt used as the victim's handler was compensated by the then governor intervening in regulatory affairs on his behalf. Goldschmidt is a Democrat.

The commonality between a Rowland and a Goldschmidt is hubris. Both are men who were told they were special and always given their way from a young age. The plums of society and approval of millions were conferred on them. Along the way, they began to have such a strong sense of entitlement that any 'good fortune' they could avail themselves of struck them as their just due.

3:10 PM