GOP Party Head Sentenced For Phone Jamming

March 10, 2005

The former executive director of the state Republican Party was sentenced Thursday to seven months in prison for jamming Democratic telephone lines during the 2002 general election.

Chuck McGee pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to make anonymous calls to annoy or harass. He also was fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. He faced up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"I made a mistake," McGee said as he left court. "I'm prepared to pay for that mistake."

McGee resigned in 2003 after police alerted federal prosecutors to the phone-jamming operation. He denied any wrongdoing at the time. He later admitted paying $15,600 to a Virginia telemarketing company that hired another business to call get-out-the-vote phone banks around the state.

The computer-generated calls — more than 800 in all — lasted for about an hour and a half. They also disrupted a nonpartisan firefighters' union phones.

"Actions of this nature strike at the core of the democratic process," U.S. District Judge Joseph DiClerico said.

Federal prosecutor Todd Hinnen asked for leniency, saying McGee had cooperated. DiClerico said 10 months in prison would be appropriate for the crime, but cut that to seven months.

James Tobin, the former Northeast political director of the national party committee working to elect Republican senators, also is charged in the case. Prosecutors say he orchestrated the jamming. Tobin has pleaded innocent.

Allen Raymond, who was president of the Alexandria, Va.-based GOP Marketplace LLC at the time, pleaded guilty to hiring a firm from Idaho to make the calls. He was sentenced earlier this year to five months in prison.

State Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan had written a letter asking that McGee not be sentenced to prison. She said he was a "low-level player" who also had cooperated with Democrats in a jamming-related lawsuit against Republicans. She said more senior Republicans should be held accountable.

"There were people who supervised Chuck, and they did not do so properly," she said.

McGee asked to serve his sentence promptly. He must turn himself in by April 26.