Saturday, April 22, 2006

Deeper and Deeper

The Brooks Brothers riots were of course not the only direct hand this administration's had in undermining democratic process. Witness the concerted effort to keep New Hampshire Democrats away from the polls in 2002, which has been traced back to the White House itself. And just look at who's up to his eyeballs in the scandal!

As Democrats prowl through evidence in a growing phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire, what should pop up but DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority political action committee.

Every time you think you've reached the limit - that there's no depth to which this man will not sink - he manages to surprise you yet again.


Blogger Management said...

Phone-Jamming Records Point to White House

By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press WriterMon Apr 10, 4:55 PM ET

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.

2:20 AM  
Blogger Management said...

DeLay's scandals: maybe not just for Texas anymore
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Tom DeLay isn't involved in every Republican scandal, although it's easy to see how you could get that idea.

As Democrats prowl through evidence in a growing phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire, what should pop up but DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority political action committee.

Just as Republican operatives in 2002 were shelling out about $15,000 to attempt to tie up Election Day phone lines at some Democratic get-out-the-vote call centers in the Granite State, three groups — let's call them "Friends of Jack Abramoff" — were ponying up $5,000 each to the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.

In addition to DeLay's ARM, the generous givers were two casino-fueled tribes, California's Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. (The tribal contributions were first reported in The Union Leader, a New Hampshire newspaper, and the ARM contribution was added in a New York Times piece.)

Were the contributions happenstance? That's certainly possible.

But as New Hampshire Democratic chairwoman Kathy Sullivan asked in a telephone interview: "What's the sound of two scandals crashing together?" She adds that it was very unusual for the tribes to give directly to state parties in non-gaming states, which include New Hampshire.

And New Hampshire Republicans were desperate for money in 2002. The state was the scene of one of the hardest-fought U.S. Senate races in the nation, in which Republican John E. Sununu (son of the former governor and White House chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush) eventually defeated Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, another former governor, 51-46 percent.

Perhaps we'll find out if there's some DeLay-Arbramoff-tribal connection if Judge Philip Mangones of the Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester, N.H., allows a civil suit against the state's GOP to proceed.

The list of possible witnesses could include DeLay or associates at his ARM political action committee and, most tantalizing for Democrats with DeLay on his way out, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, former White House political director.

Republican defendants have asked Mangones to throw out the civil case. But now that a federal criminal investigation, which has already nailed three Republican operatives, is winding down, the Democratic plaintiffs have asked Mangones to allow the discovery phase of the civil case in his state court to proceed. Sullivan expects a decision in a week or two.

The case was good enough even before the Democratic-linked Senate Majority Project came up with some interesting phone records. They show that as the phone-jamming project was under way, its apparent mastermind, James Tobin, who in 2002 was the Republican National Committee's main man in New England, was frequently phoning the office of the political director at the White House, i.e. Mehlman's shop.

Mehlman has hotly denied any knowledge of the phone-jamming program, but he has been less clear about why, if the RNC was not involved, it has paid $2.5 million in legal fees to have Tobin represented in the federal case by the venerable Washington "white collar" defense firm of Williams & Connolly.

In a CNN interview last week, Mehlman said the decision to foot the legal bill was made before he became chairman and "based on assurances (Tobin) made. I believed it was right to honor that decision." Hmmm.

State Democratic chief Sullivan says that given Republicans' shifting stories about what went on in 2002, she would like officials such as Mehlman questioned under oath.

Tobin pleaded not guilty in the federal criminal case but was convicted and is to be sentenced next month.

Two other Republican operatives pleaded guilty: Charles "Chuck" McGee, former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, who was sentenced to seven months in prison, and Allen Raymond, former chief of GOP Marketplace consultants, who was sentenced to five months.

At Tobin's trial, former state GOP chief McGee testified: "It was not our goal to stop rides to the polls. Our goal was to disrupt communications."

Any fine distinction there is moot.

Anyway, the Republican consultant testified that Tobin was explicit about "doing a program designed to disrupt the Democrats' get-out-the-vote activities and their affiliated organizations." One of the affected call centers was operated by the Manchester Professional Firefighters Association, a political powerhouse.

Mehlman can't have been too distressed by Tobin and his methods. In 2004, Tobin moved up to be New England manager of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

2:20 AM  

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