June 21: “Poor Judgment” Costs a Governor His Job


“I acknowledge that my poor judgment brought us here,” said John Rowland to a sea of reporters standing on the back lawn of the Connecticut Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. The date was June 21, 2004, and Rowland was announcing his resignation amid a federal corruption investigation and impeachment inquiry. His Lieutenant Governor, M. Jodi Rell, would take his place as Connecticut’s chief executive.

Few would have ever predicted that Rowland’s stellar political career would end in disgrace. His meteoric rise to stardom in the Republican party began with his election to the state legislature at age 23. At 27 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and when he became Governor of Connecticut in 1995, he was the youngest governor in the country at age 37.

As a moderate Republican, Rowland was incredibly popular in Connecticut, and was the first governor in state history since 1784 to be elected to a third term in office. However, not long after his successful reelection campaign of 2002, things began to unravel. Rumors of corruption initiated a federal investigation into Rowland’s campaign, and Rowland himself became a prime target after members of his staff testified to awarding lucrative state contracts to certain people and companies in exchange for cash bribes. It was soon revealed that Rowland had accepted cash and services (most infamously, “free” renovations on his vacation home) as bribes, and took part in other corrupt practices like purchasing ownership stakes in companies immediately before they were awarded state contracts.

Six months after his abrupt resignation from office on June 21, 2004, Rowland pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced to a year in federal prison, followed by lengthy periods of house arrest and probation. Ten years later, in 2015, he would again be sentenced to time in federal prison for attempting to conceal his paid position as a political campaign consultant from the Federal Election Commission.

Further Reading

William Yardley, “Connecticut’s Governor Steps Down: Under Pressure, Rowland Resigns Governor’s Post,” New York Times