TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Phone Records in Jamming Case Point to White House

Phone Records in Jamming Case Point to White House

Larry Margasak (
Tue, 11 Apr 2006 19:13:59 -0500

Records in N.H. Case Show White House Ties
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

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

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 of 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

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

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.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera said Monday:
"With every development in this case, there are new questions about
the extent to which key national Republicans had knowledge of or were
involved in a criminal scheme to keep New Hampshire voters from
getting to the polls. The American people have a right to know whether
the White House political director, who today sits as chairman of the
national Republican Party, had any hand in it."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I am curious and trying to remember
from a long time ago: During the Watergate scandal, didn't the
Republican party also pay for the legal expenses of the accused? PAT]

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