Up to their old tricks

There's a story out of New Hampshire that hasn't received the attention it deserves.

On Election Day of 2002, at the end of a close and hotly contested race for U.S. Senate between John E. Sununu, a Republican congressman, and Democrat Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, five get-out-the-vote phone banks operated by Dems and one line sponsored by the Manchester firefighter union were bombarded by nearly 1,000 incoming calls, crippling them for up to two hours.

The calls originated from an Idaho telemarketing firm contracted by a Virginia consulting firm hired by the New Hampshire state GOP. Three people have been convicted of crimes for the scheme, including telephone harassment and conspiracy:

Allen Raymond, former president of GOP Marketplace, a Virginia-based Republican consulting firm;

Chuck McGee, former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican party;

James Tobin, former northeast political director of the Republican National Committee and Bush's New England chairman for his 2004 reelection.

On election day of 2002, during the thick of the phone-jamming, Tobin made nearly two dozen calls to a number in the office of Ken Mehlman, then-director of White House political affairs. Mehlman is now RNC chairman.

At first, the White House refused to identify who the number belonged to. Mehlman subsequently said that Tobin and other local GOP operatives spoke with Alicia Davis, the White House official in charge of the northeast. Davis is now mid-Atlantic director of the RNC.

It gets better. The money trail for the $15,600 phone-jamming campaign leads back to none other than Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, and an Indian tribe that was an Abramoff client. One has to wonder why an Indian tribe would make a donation to a state political organization when New Hampshire has no Indian tribes. It isn't as though they could seek a casino in the state.

Tobin was represented by Williams and Connolly, the top-drawer white collar criminal law firm. Legal bills have reportedly topped $2.5 million and may be as high as $6 million -- generously paid by the RNC even though it isn't obligated.

Some suggest that the RNC is paying the legal fees out of loyalty. Others suggest that the national GOP organization is desperate to protect itself and prevent disclosure of potentially embarrassing documents and information. Justin Rood asks why the GOP is diverting a lot of money to defend patently illegal conduct in an election year where it faces the loss of several seats in Congress.

In his New York Times commentary, Adam Cohen drew strong parallels to Watergate; the return of a "second-rate burglary," the return of high-priced lawyers, the return of "follow the money," and the return of asking "what did they know, and when did they know it?"

It's like deja vu all over again. And hardly surprising since Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove learned his political craft at the knee of Watergate era dirty trickster Donald Sengretti.

Democrats filed suit in federal court in an attempt to compel the GOP and the White House to answer questions about the phone-jamming incident. This story is far from over, and worth paying attention.

Betsy Devine has been covering the case closely, and has posted an excellent timeline. Wikipedia has detailed information about the phone-jamming scandal. Read more about James Tobin at SourceWatch.


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