Tobin Sentenced

May 18, 2006

From PoliticsNH.com:

Republican consultant James Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, was sentanced to 10 months in federal prison today for his involvement in a scheme to jam get-out-the-vote phone lines at Democratic offices and union halls on Election Day in 2002.

In addition to the time in prison he was also fined $10,000 and will serve two years probation.

Tobin is the third person convicted on phone jamming. Also found guilty were former State Republican Party Executive Director Chuck McGee and Republican consultant Allen Raymond of Virginia.

His sentancing came on the same day that state Republicans announced that Karl Rove will visit the state next month for a fund-raiser. The Washington Post reported this morning the party had just little over $700 in their state and federal accounts.

Advertisements

NH Phone Jamming & Watergate

April 17, 2006

From The New York Times:

A Small-Time Crime With Hints of Big-Time Connections Lights Up the Net

The Internet is a great breeding ground for political conspiracies, and there is a new one lighting up computer monitors across the country. Bloggers are fascinated by what they see as eerie parallels between Watergate and a phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire. It has low-level Republican operatives involved in dirty campaign tricks. It has checks from donors with murky backgrounds. It has telephone calls to the White House. What is unclear is whether it is the work of a few rogue actors, or something larger.

In 2002, there was a hard-fought Senate race between Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat, and John Sununu, the Republican. On Election Day, Democratic workers arrived at five get-out-the-vote offices to find their phone lines jammed. It turned out that the jamming was being done by an Idaho telemarketing firm that was being paid by a Virginia consulting group. The fee for the jamming, reportedly $15,600, was paid by New Hampshire Republicans.

The executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party and the president of the Virginia consulting group pleaded guilty for their part in the scheme. James Tobin, who was the New England political director for the Republican National Committee, went to trial and was convicted of telephone harassment last December.

Now, Jack Abramoff and his Indian tribe clients have joined the cast of characters, and some records of phone calls to the White House have turned up, though the significance of both of these revelations is hotly disputed. The evidence that the phone-jamming scandal goes higher than Mr. Tobin remains scant. But the watchdogs are right about this: the news media, prosecutors and the general public should demand more information about what happened.

The parallels drawn with Watergate are a good place to start:

1. The return of the "second-rate burglary." The New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal is being dismissed as small-time, state-level misconduct, but it occurred at a critical moment in a tough election.

In November 2002, Republicans were intent on winning a Senate majority so they would control the White House and both houses of Congress. They saw the Sununu-Shaheen race as pivotal. On Election Day morning, the phone lines were jammed at the Democratic offices and at a get-out-the-vote operation run by a firefighters' union. The police were called, and the lines were eventually freed up. The election wasn't as close as expected. Mr. Sununu won, and Republicans retook the Senate.

2. The return of the high-priced lawyer. Aficionados of the Watergate connection like to point out that one of the first clues that the Watergate burglars were not ordinary small-time crooks was the presence of a slick lawyer in an expensive suit at their first court appearance. In the New Hampshire case, Mr. Tobin was represented by Williams & Connolly, a pre-eminent white-collar criminal law firm. The legal bills, which published estimates have put at more than $2.5 million, were paid by the Republican National Committee. Democrats are asking why the committee footed the bill, if Mr. Tobin was a rogue actor who implicated the national party in a loathsome and embarrassing crime.

3. The return of "follow the money." (As if it ever left.) New Hampshire Democrats pored over the filings of the New Hampshire Republican Party and found three contributions for $5,000 each, all shortly before the election. One was from Americans for a Republican Majority, Tom DeLay's political action committee. The other two were from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, tribes that were clients of Jack Abramoff. Those checks add up almost exactly to the cost of the phone jamming.

Republicans say that a lot of money flows into a campaign and that there is nothing to tie these checks to the phone jamming. But New Hampshire Democrats argue that it is highly unusual for Indian tribes to contribute to a state party in a state that does not have federally recognized Indian tribes or Indian gambling.

4. Does anybody get to ask: "What did they know, and when did they know it?" Democrats would, of course, like to connect the jamming to the White House, and this month they found a possible link. The Senate Majority Project, a pro-Democratic campaign group, examined the phone records that came out in Mr. Tobin's case and found that he made dozens of calls to the White House's office of political affairs right when he was executing the phone-jamming scheme. Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman who was the White House political director at the time, insists that close contact of this kind between political operatives is the norm on Election Day, and that none of the calls mentioned the jamming.

New Hampshire Democrats have filed a civil lawsuit seeking to learn more about what occurred. They want the judge to give them access to e-mail messages that could shed light on the phone calls to the White House, and to let them question officials of the Republican National Committee and the White House. In March, a federal grand jury indicted a fourth person in the jamming scheme, the former co-owner of the Idaho telemarketing firm. The Senate Majority Project has been putting key documents on its Web site (www.senatemajority.com) and is continuing to investigate.

The phone jamming could turn out to be the work of a few bad actors. It could, on the other hand, take the Abramoff scandals to a new level of skullduggery. At least, 34 years after Watergate, we know the right questions to ask.


Phone-Jamming Records Point to White House

April 11, 2006

From Yahoo! News:

Key figures in a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in 2002 had regular contact with the White House and Republican Party as the plan was unfolding, phone records introduced in criminal court show.

The records show that Bush campaign operative James Tobin, who recently was convicted in the case, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period around Election Day 2002 — as the phone jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down.

The national Republican Party, which paid millions in legal bills to defend Tobin, says the contacts involved routine election business and that it was "preposterous" to suggest the calls involved phone jamming.

The Justice Department has secured three convictions in the case but hasn't accused any White House or national Republican officials of wrongdoing, nor made any allegations suggesting party officials outside New Hampshire were involved. The phone records of calls to the White House were exhibits in Tobin's trial but prosecutors did not make them part of their case.

Democrats plan to ask a federal judge Tuesday to order GOP and White House officials to answer questions about the phone jamming in a civil lawsuit alleging voter fraud.

Repeated hang-up calls that jammed telephone lines at a Democratic get-out-the-vote center occurred in a Senate race in which Republican John Sununu defeated Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, 51 percent to 46 percent, on Nov. 5, 2002.

Besides the conviction of Tobin, the Republicans' New England regional director, prosecutors negotiated two plea bargains: one with a New Hampshire Republican Party official and another with the owner of a telemarketing firm involved in the scheme. The owner of the subcontractor firm whose employees made the hang-up calls is under indictment.

The phone records show that most calls to the White House were from Tobin, who became     President Bush's presidential campaign chairman for the New England region in 2004. Other calls from New Hampshire senatorial campaign offices to the White House could have been made by a number of people.

A GOP campaign consultant in 2002, Jayne Millerick, made a 17-minute call to the White House on Election Day, but said in an interview she did not recall the subject. Millerick, who later became the New Hampshire GOP chairwoman, said in an interview she did not learn of the jamming until after the election.

A Democratic analysis of phone records introduced at Tobin's criminal trial show he made 115 outgoing calls — mostly to the same number in the White House political affairs office — between Sept. 17 and Nov. 22, 2002. Two dozen of the calls were made from 9:28 a.m. the day before the election through 2:17 a.m. the night after the voting.

There also were other calls between Republican officials during the period that the scheme was hatched and canceled.

Prosecutors did not need the White House calls to convict Tobin and negotiate the two guilty pleas.

Whatever the reason for not using the White House records, prosecutors "tried a very narrow case," said Paul Twomey, who represented the Democratic Party in the criminal and civil cases. The Justice Department did not say why the White House records were not used.

The Democrats said in their civil case motion that they were entitled to know the purpose of the calls to government offices "at the time of the planning and implementation of the phone-jamming conspiracy … and the timing of the phone calls made by Mr. Tobin on Election Day."

While national Republican officials have said they deplore such operations, the     Republican National Committee said it paid for Tobin's defense because he is a longtime supporter and told officials he had committed no crime.

By Nov. 4, 2002, the Monday before the election, an Idaho firm was hired to make the hang-up calls. The Republican state chairman at the time, John Dowd, said in an interview he learned of the scheme that day and tried to stop it.

Dowd, who blamed an aide for devising the scheme without his knowledge, contended that the jamming began on Election Day despite his efforts. A police report confirmed the Manchester Professional Fire Fighters Association reported the hang-up calls began about 7:15 a.m. and continued for about two hours. The association was offering rides to the polls.

Virtually all the calls to the White House went to the same number, which currently rings inside the political affairs office. In 2002, White House political affairs was led by now-RNC chairman Ken Mehlman. The White House declined to say which staffer was assigned that phone number in 2002.

"As policy, we don't discuss ongoing legal proceedings within the courts," White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said.

Robert Kelner, a Washington lawyer representing the Republican National Committee in the civil litigation, said there was no connection between the phone jamming operation and the calls to the White House and party officials.

"On Election Day, as anybody involved in politics knows, there's a tremendous volume of calls between political operatives in the field and political operatives in Washington," Kelner said.

"If all you're pointing out is calls between Republican National Committee regional political officials and the White House political office on Election Day, you're pointing out nothing that hasn't been true on every Election Day," he said.


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.


GOP Consultant Admits To Jamming Lines

July 1, 2004

The former head a Republican consulting group pleaded guilty yesterday to jamming Democratic telephone lines in several New Hampshire cities during the 2002 general election.

Allen Raymond, former president of the Virginia-based GOP Marketplace LLC, waived indictment and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Concord yesterday. Judge Joseph A. DiClerico Jr. released Raymond him on his own recognizance pending sentencing and ordered him not to apply for a passport.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department, which prosecuted the case, said an investigation into the telephone jamming continues.

According to court papers released yesterday, Raymond plotted with unidentified co-conspirators to jam Democratic Party telephone lines established so voters could call for rides to the polls in Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Claremont. Manchester firefighters’ union phone lines also were affected.

The jamming involved more than 800 calls and lasted for about 1½ hours on Nov. 5, 2002, the day New Hampshire voters went to the polls to decide many state and federal races, including the closely watched U.S. Senate race between outgoing Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and then Congressman John Sununu. Sununu, a Republican, won the race.

Democrats, who pushed for an investigation for two years, said they were glad to see a prosecution has begun.

“There is, short of murder, not much that is more horrific in America than purposely trying to stop people from voting,” said Raymond Buckley, vice chairman of the state Democratic Party. He said the jamming was obviously an organized effort, taking place across the state.

He expects to see more charges.

“Somebody hired them, somebody paid them to do this crime,” Buckley said. “I do not believe this investigation should stop until every single person who had knowledge of this and paid for this is prosecuted.”

In early 2003, state Republicans acknowledged they hired GOP Marketplace of Alexandria, Va., for telemarketing services in the 2002 election. But Republican Party Chairman Jayne Millerick has maintained the company was paid $15,600 for telemarketing services to encourage people to vote Republican, not to jam lines.

Chuck McGee, who was executive director of the state Republican Party at the time, resigned his post after news broke of the matter. McGee had told The Union Leader he had only vaguely heard of the company; Millerick has said McGee was mistaken.

“The New Hampshire Republican State Committee was pleased to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice investigation,” Millerick said in a statement released late yesterday. “These allegations have been extremely troubling and we are happy that it appears they are coming to a just conclusion.”

Raymond pleaded guilty to a crime that prohibits “harassing telephone calls in interstate communication without disclosing the caller’s identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person at the called number ….”

A criminal information complaint filed in court yesterday charges that Raymond worked with “co-conspirators known to the government,” but did not identify them.

The complaint said he paid a “vendor co-conspirator” $2,500 to make the actual calls. In previous articles, Manchester police have said that GOP Marketplace hired Idaho-based telemarketer Milo Enterprises to jam the lines.