House panel looks at phone jamming in New Hampshire election
WASHINGTON — A House panel is probing the Election Day 2002 phone-jamming plot by GOP operatives against New Hampshire Democrats.
Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., wants the panel to focus on key "unanswered questions" about whether the White House played a role in the plot — and whether the Justice Department dragged its feet on the case for political reasons.
"I want to know what the connection was between the White House, the Republican National Committee and the conspiracy to jam phones," said Hodes, who was scheduled to testify Wednesday before a joint panel of two Judiciary Committee subcommittees.
Hodes said the public deserves to know whether political interference delayed prosecution of the case until after the 2004 elections and President Bush’s re-election. The controversy over the alleged political firings of eight federal prosecutors underscores the need to hold the Justice Department accountable, he said.
The phone-jamming scandal has led to at least three criminal prosecutions and a lawsuit that was settled with Republicans paying the Democrats $135,000.
Allen Raymond, a Republican consultant who served three months in prison for his role organizing the jamming, will also testify. He wrote a book entitled "How to Rig an Election."
More than 800 hang-up calls jammed phone lines set up by the state Democratic Party and the Manchester firefighters’ union for more than an hour on Election Day, when Republican John Sununu won a hotly contested Senate race against then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat. Since Sununu won by nearly 20,000 votes, the more than 800 jammed phone calls likely had little impact on the outcome of the race.
Charles McGee, former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, pleaded guilty and served seven months in prison for his role in the scheme.
Former Republican National Committee Regional Director James Tobin of Maine was convicted by a jury in 2005 of helping arrange the phone-jam calls. He was acquitted this year on appeal. Federal prosecutors are appealing the acquittal.
At the time of the jamming, Tobin was regional political director for the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, overseeing Senate campaigns in several states. In 2004, he stepped down as New England chairman of Bush’s re-election campaign when Democrats accused him of playing a role in the phone jamming.
Phone records from Tobin’s trial show he made two dozen calls to the White House political office right around Election Day 2002, as the phone-jamming operation was finalized, carried out and abruptly shut down.
The White House political office, recipient of most of the calls, was run in 2002 by Ken Mehlman. He has denied any calls were related to the jamming, contending the discussions focused only on the close election won by Sununu.