Republican Tom Foley has been conniving to keep a damaging secret for years. The release at any time in the past decade of a 1981 police report account of a chilling summer night on Long Island that tells a tale of an alleged assault with a motor vehicle driven by Foley would have snuffed out the Greenwich businessman's political ambitions.
According to the Southampton police report obtained by The Courant's Jon Lender, Foley struck a car with five passengers in the middle of the night after Foley and the others left a party at financier Paul Tudor Jones' home. According to the report, the victims told police Foley repeatedly struck the car at speeds of up to 50 mph.
The driver of the car, Michael Howe, who also lives in Greenwich, told Lender that the event was "frightening" and "no accident." Foley spent a night in jail and the charges were dropped. The police report was sealed and Foley, who has a right to unseal it, took no steps to enlighten the public about the ugly incident in 2010, when it first came to public view, or in the ensuing years. Foley is exploring a bid for governor. He came close to defeating Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy three years ago.
Before entering elective politics with a brief and fruitless 2009 bid for the U.S. Senate, which he dropped to run for governor, Foley snagged two high-profile appointments from the George W. Bush administration. He served in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. He went on to become the U.S. ambassador to Ireland from 2006 to 2009.
As part of the appointment process in each instance, Foley was required to disclose his 1981 arrest on suspicion of first-degree attempted assault. He did not. If he had, Foley's appointments would likely have been derailed. Disclosure of the arrest would have prompted an investigation by authorities who have the ability to pull answers out of the people they are interviewing.
Besides the tight-lipped Foley, there are five direct witnesses to the Long Island incident: Howe and his four passengers. Not one of them is unlikely to have forgotten the details of that night. A passenger in a car that suffers a high-speed ramming is going to remember the sound, the circumstances and the fear that accompany the event. Once would be enough to make an impression; five times creates a nightmare.
Whatever was uncovered by investigators for the Bush administration, the State Department and the U.S. Senate, which had to confirm Foley's appointment to the post in Ireland, it would have been shared with plenty of others in government. Foley would have had to provide more than his standard explanation that it was a minor collision. Last week, he told Lender in an email that the Long Island police report is the version of the people in the other car; his is different.
Federal investigators conducting background checks would have extracted details, probably not helpful to Foley. Foley would have had to hand over a copy of the police documents, which are on The Courant's website at courant.com/foleyreport.
Add to that the claim of Foley's first wife, Lisa Foley, that in 1993 her then-husband blocked her car in his driveway after a disagreement involving their son, who was in his mother's car at the time of the incident. Foley finally did let her drive away but pursued her through the streets of Greenwich in his car. It starts to look like a pattern of anger transformed into dangerous conduct.
In 2010, Foley issued a statement about the revelations and was angry that the events had entered the public domain. Each of us may weigh the facts as we know them and decide what they tell us about Foley. What is less open to debate is that they reveal a man who is unlikely to be elected governor of Connecticut.
The Long Island police report is a great big cup of hemlock and the state's Republicans will have to decide if they want to drink it or elect a governor. That's the choice. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a Foley rival, understood that Tuesday when he wrote, Republicans "must have a clean and clear shot at the governor's office free from controversy." Foley no longer offers that.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.