The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Sunday, April 23, 2006

The phone jamming case explained

This piece by Eleanor Clift claims that the New Hampshire phone jamming case "has legs." As much as I'd like to agree, I can't. At least not in the sense that the public will pay much attention. And that's pretty disgraceful. Unfortunately, it's a byproduct of the way the right-wing has been running the show for the last decade. Starting with New Gingrich's absurd 'Contract With America,' we have been so mercilessly flogged with cries of wolf from every corner, from the corporatists to the fundamentalists and every right-wing shill in between, that nothing seems to anger people anymore. Except for the right-wing base-- everything seems to fill them with bile. The thing is, righties have cornered the market on outrage. They regularly scream themselves hoarse, while ironically claiming that any dissenting view is nothing more than the insane ravings of America-hating radicals. (Even worse, they seem to have found an ally in the DLC.)

So even though the New Hampshire case pretty clearly involves a concerted effort, White House included, to illegally throw a state election to the Republicans, things are so bad that we can't expect the press to pay any attention.

At any rate, Clift provides a concise picture of how the case is shaping up.

Initially dismissed as a petty political trick, it led to the trial and conviction for telephone harassment last December of the New England political director for the Republican National Committee, James Tobin. That in itself would barely register on anybody’s radar except Tobin was represented by one of Washington’s white shoe law firms, Williams & Connolly, and his legal fees were $2.5 million. The Republican National Committee picked up the tab, which suggests this may not have been a rogue operation. Was Tobin’s high-priced defense an effort to keep him from ratting out his contacts in the Bush White House? The RNC has said it paid Tobin’s legal fees because he is a long-time supporter and because he has maintained his innocence. Tobin is appealing his conviction.

Meeting with reporters over breakfast Wednesday morning, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said an examination of Tobin’s phone records revealed “hundreds of calls” between the White House and New Hampshire party operatives at the time of the phone-jamming on Election Day 2002. “I don’t think they were discussing the weather,” Dean said. The stakes were high in ’02. Democrats controlled the Senate by one vote and the White House was determined to regain the majority. In New Hampshire, Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican John Sununu were in a tight race for the Senate. Get out the vote operations were critical to both sides, so when Democratic workers arrived at five key centers to find their phone lines jammed, they suspected dirty tricks.

They were right. The jamming was traced to an Idaho telemarketing firm. The fee for the jamming service, reportedly $15,600, was paid by the New Hampshire Republican Party through a Virginia consulting firm. Public records filed by the state GOP show three checks, each for $5,000, conveniently arriving to cover the charge just before the election. One was from Tom DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority; the others from Indian tribes that were clients of the now indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Shaheen lost to Sununu by just under 20,000 votes.

Thanks to PS for the link.