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Stretching a scandal all out of shape

Recently, the AP did a story on New Hampshire's phone-jamming incident from the 2002 elections. I've covered it before several times, but here's a quick recap:

In 2002, in a tight race for the US Senate, the New England Republican coordinator, James Tobin, arranged for a telemarketing firm to call in repeatedly to the Democrats' get-out-the-vote line, so Democrats who needed a ride to the polls couldn't get through. The Republican candidate ended up winning in a squeaker, and so far three of the officials behind the scheme have been convicted of federal charges.

The story the AP put out adds a few details. Apparently on and around, election day, Mr. Tobin made two dozen calls to the White House. This, coupled with the fact that the Republican National Committee has forked over a lot of money in Tobin's defense (the last count was around $750,000, but the AP story says "millions,") leaves the impression that this scandal is a LOT bigger than has been revealed so far.

The RNC money is indeed a scandal, one that they need to explain now. Actually, they should have explained it a long time ago, and story isn't going away. But the latest attempt to tie the scandal to the White House just doesn't hold up.

To properly explain why I'm not buying the Republican connection, I need to go into some detail about the 2002 Senate race. It was an incredibly complicated period in New Hampshire political history, and not something that can be easily summed up.

(A brief disclaimer: I am not a Republican. From the spring of 2000 until December 2004, I was a registered Democrat, but that was I had declared myself a Democrat to vote for Bill Bradley in the primary -- that race seemed far more interesting than the GOP one, where Bush had it pretty much sewn up. I forgot to un-enroll after voting, and didn't get around to visiting City Hall and re-registering as an independent until a little over a year ago. That stretch was the only time in my life I spent more than ten minutes as a member of either party. I have always considered myself an independent voter, not interested in belonging to any party. In fact, in the last election, I split my vote between two Republicans and two Democrats. Three of my picks -- President Bush, Congressman Bradley, and now-Governor Lynch -- all won. The fourth, Doris "Granny D" Haddock, never had a chance to unseat Senator Judd Gregg, but I've never been able to stand him.)

The incumbent Senator at the time was Bob Smith. Smith represented what I call the "arrogant stupid" wing of the New Hampshire. (Senator Judd Gregg is the titular head of the other wing, the "arrogant rich.") Smith had been in the Senate for 12 years, and had built a reputation as an arch conservative -- just not a terribly bright one. In 2000, he toyed with the idea of seeking the presidency, playing on his "favorite son" status in New Hampshire. When the cold reality set in, he decided that his campaign was far too important than petty party politics, so he bolted the GOP and ran as the candidate of the U.S. Taxpayers Party. A month later, he bolted them, too, and continued as an independent. And when that fell apart, he slinked back to the GOP with his tail between his legs.

They took him back, but they knew damaged goods when they saw them. One of New Hampshire's two Congressmen saw the opportunity and challenged Smith in the primary -- and beat him.

John E. Sununu was a three-term congressman at the time. He's the son of John H. Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and co-host of CNN's Crossfire who also served for a while as the first President Bush's Chief Of Staff until his abuse of perks drove him to resign. (Sununu is another member of the "arrogant rich" faction.) The upstart congressman turned Buffalo Bob into a lame duck, then started looking towards the November election.

Sununu's opponent in the general election would be formidable indeed. Jeanne Shaheen had an amazing record she was running on. She was New Hampshire's first woman governor, and a Democrat to boot in a state that for decades had been rock-ribbed Republican. She was also very successful, winning re-election twice before leaving the corner office to run for the Senate. It was her best chance, with Smith taken out by a fellow Republican, and there were still a lot of resentment among Republicans. The Smith loyalists just might sit out the election entirely, giving the Democrats a chance to pick up one of New Hampshire's four seats on Capitol Hill -- seats that had been solidly in the GOP's pocket for nearly a decade.

So that was the situation in New Hampshire in November 2002. It was a tight race, with both parties fielding very popular candidates with powerful, experienced machines. It was very much up in the air, adn at the time every single Senate seat was critical to both parties. Everyone said the New Hampshire race would be a bellweather on President Bush's administration. And, in the end, Sununu won by 4%, 51-47, and the Republicans (in addition to keeping New Hampshire's Senate seat) picked up two new seats.

In that environment, it would have been incredibly suspicious indeed if the White House did not keep in close touch with the New England coordinator. Bush campaigned for Sununu, the son of his father's right-hand man. There was an element of dynastic politics involved, as well as the distinct possibility that the Republicans could lose the seat. (Hell, we even have a Democratic governor again.)

But would the White House have been a party to the phone jamming plot? I find that beyond incredible. For one, it was such a transparent, stupid play that it would have raised red flags with SOMEONE in the Bush administration, which has some of the most brilliant political minds in the country. (Just look at all the shenanigans Karl Rove is accused of engineering.) For another, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Tobin would have shared his brilliant plan with more people than absolutely necessary. "Three can keep a secret if two are dead" are words to live by. There was absolutely no reason to tell the White House how he was planning to win the race. In fact, it'd probably be better if he didn't share the details, but just to appear as a genius.

There is definitely more to this scandal than has come out so far. I am thrilled that three of the plotters have been convicted and are facing jail time, but I still want to know just why in hell the Republican National Committee has forked over so damned much money (that they have been given by their loyal supporters) to defend these scum. More significantly, they have yet to offer a single word of explanation as to why they are doing it. The news story hints that current GOP National Chairman Ken Mehlman might -- might -- have been involved or aware of the phone-jamming scandal, but there's nothing concrete.

The phone-jamming scheme was vile, perverse, and flagrantly illegal. I am delighted that Mr. Tobin has been convicted, and two others -- another GOP official and the president of the telemarketing firm that made the calls -- have pleaded guilty. I think it's ludicrous to think that any high-ranking White House officials would have been involved or even aware of the story, but there HAS to be something rotten at the RNC if they're still paying for those scum's defense.

Previous coverage of this story at Wizbang:
Bipartisan Asshattery
Throwing Good Money After Bad
Follow The Money
Former GOP leader convicted of phone jamming
GOP Paying Hush Money?

Comments (15)

Jay Tea, WE AGREE! AND I'M ... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea, WE AGREE! AND I'M FREAKING OUT! except about Bob Smith: voting record is everything and he always voted right. screw the RNC. never a penny from me!

(Copyrighted, irrelevant ma... (Below threshold)

(Copyrighted, irrelevant material quoted without permission deleted)

VietVet, if you wanna bring up this material, 1) find a relevant posting and 2) post a LINK. We do NOT allow the wholesale cutting and pasting of copyright-protected material in the comments.

(Section Editor)

Vietvet, WaPo copyright law... (Below threshold)

Vietvet, WaPo copyright lawyer for you on Line 2.

It doesn't take a conspirac... (Below threshold)

It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to consider that some other motivating factor was there for RNC to fund the defense. Perhaps they [RNC] knew he [Tobin] knew something else that would be unsavory if brought to light, and paying the legal costs of the defense was hush money of sorts.

Tobin probably killed Vince... (Below threshold)

Tobin probably killed Vince Foster. Then later outed Valerie Plame.

Jay, It is becoming of you ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay, It is becoming of you to give a continued fair hearing to this as still locally contained story. However, Jayne Millerick now Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, then 2002 New Hampshire GOP lawyer strategist throws up a suspiciously Hillary-like Whitewater defence "I don't recall the subject" of what she talked about, during the day of the election in a 17 minute conversation to the RNC in DC. The staff phone number she called was that of then White House Political Director now RNC Director Ken Melhman who has since commented on this election" these races are very close, so you're calling and getting returns; getting results.. It all seems very murky, but far from ludicrous to conjure up, a conspriacy or an acquiescence; I wouldn't put it past it any of these result-oriented officials, if they thought they good get away with it, particularly after the greater shenanigans of Florida, 2000.

Jay, I fairly im... (Below threshold)


I fairly impressed with you here, and I never have been before. I was appalled at your amateurish faux hatchet job on the imaging specialist who analyzed the Killian Memos. In fact, as the White House later released the documents, the typesetting in question absolutely existed at that time. In addition, the memos in question were consistent with a typerwriter, not a computer, as evident from variable letter impacts.

Anyway, I'm up in NH also (in the Upper Valley) and I think you are, in terms of legal culpability, correct about the White House. Questions like "Are you doing everything you can?" and "Wouldn't it be a shame if the phones got jammed?" _actually_ seem like plausible Rove->Tobin comments to me, but without an actual recording, there will never emerge this evidence, and it wouldn't (technically?) amount to conspiracy in any event.

Damn shame about Shaheen, though.

JS, go back and look at tho... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

JS, go back and look at those ANG Memo stories again. I had nothing to do with them. I wisely let those who a hell of a lot more about it than I did handle the matter. And those -- especially Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs, who proved conclusively that the memos matched the default settings for Microsoft Word perfectly through an animated GIF that overlaid the two -- convinced me that they were utterly bogus.

But thanks for the kind words about this story.


The phone calls that Tobin ... (Below threshold)
Max Cowen:

The phone calls that Tobin made went into an office at the White House that was at the time used by Ken Mehlman. Not that others may not have used it, and we do not know who Tobin spoke with. Now you have the RNC headed up by Mehlman forking over large sums of cash for Tobin's defense.

Jay,The White Hous... (Below threshold)


The White House released a document that showed, conclusively, that no matter what Charles at LGF says, the exact typesetting on the alleged forgeries was in use at the exact time they were supposedly released.

No one on Earth is now a better expert on these matters than Mr. Lukasiak. It is doubtful that anyone else is near the expert he is on the relevant US AF and US ANG regulations at the time, either. www.GLCQ.com

Sorry to seem to be steering this post off-topic. It is not my intent.

The White House released... (Below threshold)

The White House released a document that showed, conclusively, that no matter what Charles at LGF says, the exact typesetting on the alleged forgeries was in use at the exact time they were supposedly released.

Dude, one of the other documents, from the period, was clearly typed, and had a typed superscript "th", which looked entirely differet from the one shown on the four forgeries. THat secretary may have had a special type ball that included that character, but it was clearly monospaced, and the top did NOT extend beyond the top of the other characters (the "th" on the forgeries did). Plus, the real documents show all the signs of typed documents (lines not perfectly aligned, stray marks, etc) that one would expect in typewriting that did not apper in the forgeries.

And the forgeries used a proportional font, an extreme rarity then. Typed samples from the few machines capable of it are NOTHING like the forgeries.

My guess is that you are betting on time and lack of memory to rehabilitate this story, but all the information is out there for anyone with an ounce of curiousity to follow up on.

I'm guessing CBS's biggest regret is releasing scans of the documents. Had they simply shown them on the screen, their lies might have carried the day.

www.GLCQ.com run by Paul Lu... (Below threshold)

www.GLCQ.com run by Paul Lukasiak.

The document in question, with the proportional font, dated from that time, was not available when the story broke. The White House released that much later.

Timing of the Document Release Questioned:

Oh, well if Lukasiak says i... (Below threshold)

Oh, well if Lukasiak says it, it must be twoo.

Considering that there's a ... (Below threshold)

Considering that there's a least a better than average chance that Lukasiak (or someone known to him) was the source of the fake memos, I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in his opinions on the matter.

Let's recap. Everyone who claims those memos are not forgeries is now out of a job...

Everyone who says they were... (Below threshold)

Everyone who says they were forgeries obviously can't trust Paul Volcker or the results of the Volcker Commission which says that it can't be proved, either way.

I wonder if Kevin can provide a single shred of evidence on Earth that Mr. Lukasiak is, in any way, shape and/or form associated with the original dissemination of the documents. I have to say it is probably a novel theory, and quite amusing.

Tom DeLay, like the Soviets before him and the Chinese today, prevented people from getting work unless they were of the Republican Party (see: The K Street Project). I wonder what amazing conclusions Kevin would draw from this...






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