Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ex-GOP operative tells cautionary tale about 'how to rig an election'
By Jim Acosta and Ronni Berke
CNN "American Morning"

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Allen Raymond is living proof that political dirty tricksters do exist.

The former Republican political operative went to federal prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of phone harassment. He jammed the phone lines of New Hampshire's Democratic Party on Election Day six years ago [2002].

"The concept was to disrupt lines of communication. That's a fancy way of saying, 'make it so the phones didn't work,' " Raymond said recently. "No calls going out. No calls going in."

We're not going to give away exactly how Raymond did it. According to federal prosecutors, two top Republican Party officials tapped Raymond's Virginia-based telemarketing firm for the operation. Raymond then contracted out the job to a private phone bank in Idaho.

Former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan remembers the ensuing flood of hang-up calls that created havoc in her office.

"At first, people had various impressions about what was going on," Sullivan recalled. "For example, at the Manchester field office, the young man who opened the office thought, 'The phones are all ringing off the hook. Nobody's here. I've broken the phone system. What did I do wrong?' And he was on the verge of tears."

The operation also jammed the lines inside a firefighter's union hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, where Jeff Duval and other local firefighters were lining up car rides to help senior citizens get to the polls.

"It almost felt to me like an election might have been stolen," Duval said. "I know for a fact that we received calls a few days later from people saying 'we tried to call you.' And I say 'did you get out and vote?' And they said 'no.'

Looking back, Raymond said, he thinks the scheme was ingenious in an "evil genius sort of way."

In his book, "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative," Raymond details how he got caught. An hour and a half into the jamming operation he received an e-mail from a Republican official, frantically telling him to shut down the calls. The e-mail read: "Chairman wishes not to proceed with this project ... insists it violates federal law."

Federal agents eventually paid a visit to Raymond's office.

Raymond decided to come clean about his role in the operation and cooperate with investigators.

"I felt like I had an obligation, and not obligation to my country or obligation to the people in New Hampshire, nothing like that," Raymond said. "I had a responsibility to my family."

One of Raymond's alleged co-conspirators, James Tobin, was a top official with the National Republican Senatorial Committee that year. He went on to serve as George W. Bush's Northeastern regional re-election chairman in 2004. Tobin was initially convicted. But he succeeded in having that decision overturned by an appellate court. Just last week, Tobin was again indicted in the case on two counts of making false statements to a federal agent. His lawyer had no comment.

Another co-conspirator and former chairman of New Hampshire's Republican Party, Charles McGee, pleaded guilty to phone harassment in the case and served seven months in prison.

No comments:

Post a Comment