NH Phone Jamming Conspiracy Case Widens
Manchester, NH – On election day 2002, the NH Republican State Committee, under the felonious leadership of Executive Director Chuck McGee, conspired with James Tobin, the northeast national GOP director, to jam the phones of a Manchester firefighters’ union offering rides to the polls to supporters of then Governor Jeanne Shaheen (D), running against then Rep. John Sununu (R) for Sen Bob Smith’s seat. Sununu beat Smith in the primary.
Despite the national GOP spending in excess of $7 million on legal fees to keep the conspirators out of jail, both McGee and Tobin were found guilty. McGee did a seven-month bit in the federal pen; Tobin is appealing his conviction and began his 10-month sentence in June. Allen Raymond, the proprietor of the now-defunct GOP Marketplace, a Republican consultancy funded by a $250K loan from Mississippi Governor and former RNC Chair, Haley Barbour), was also convicted and served a three-month sentence for his role in arranging for the phone jamming – for which he was paid $15,600 by the NH Republican State Committee.
Last week, based on Chuck McGee’s 302 Report with the FBI, the NH Democratic State Committee filed a motion for the release of internal GOP documents they say will help discern whether others at the NHRSC were either involved, or had foreknowledge of the crime that they then covered-up.
These individuals include former NHRSC Chairs John Dowd and Jayne Millerick, nee Marcucci, former Vice Chair, State Rep. Marc Pappas (R-Manchester) – who provided McGee with the phone numbers to be jammed, Finance Director Kristy Stuart – who prepared the check for GOP Marketplace, and consultants Kevin Blier – who went on to run an antigay organization in Vermont, Chris Wood, Grant Bosse – former Communications Director for the NH Senate Republicans and son of former NH pol Leigh Bossie, Jeff Fontaine, and Concord City Republican Chair Jeff Newman. Blier denies that he had prior knowledge of the scheme, and that McGee told him about it election night. Which, if true, means McGee’s testimony to the FBI is wrong, or as Blier insists, “I believe the FBI made a mistake in how they reported it.”
According to the NH Union Leader, Blier claims, "The inference (sic) that I knew about the phone-jamming ahead of time is dead wrong. I deeply resent the insinuation. I knew about it on election night. I knew about it after it had occurred."
Which, if true, may make him part of the cover-up. As the NHDSC motion puts it, the GOP operatives “were all likely to have been aware of the impending felony. Not a single one of them sought to dissuade McGee; no one warned the intended victims; no one called the police.” McGee described himself to the FBI as “stoked” about the phone jamming plan. Who else was stoked?
McGee told investigators that Dowd pulled the plug on the phone jamming plan election day morning, before it was to have begun. But McGee didn’t stop it because he couldn’t contact Raymond at GOP Marketplace to call him off. The operation had been in full swing for ninety minutes before Raymond got the word to shut it down.
According to phone records, when Millerick learned that the phone jamming had been discovered by the firefighters’ union, her first phone call was to a criminal defense attorney. She then made several calls to Alicia Davis, Associate Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs. Millerick denies any knowledge of the plan, but McGee’s testimony puts her at a meeting in Washington DC with him and Tobin earlier that year, where it was discussed.
Not cited in the motion, but prominently mentioned in McGee’s FBI testimony, is the public affairs director of the American Gas Association, Darrell Henry, who reportedly took a leave of absence from his job to volunteer in NH with the Sununu campaign (Sununu was then, and remains a strong supporter of drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge).
In addition to helping Sununu, Henry was assisting his old friend Julie Teer, then the NHRSC communications director. She’d also served in the same capacity for Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA), and more recently for Gov Mitt Romney (R-MA). She now heads up the comm shop at Romney’s 2008 presidential vehicle, The Commonwealth PAC. According to McGee, when he told Henry later that day that the phone jamming operation had been stopped by Dowd, he offered to re-start it with some volunteers from “the chamber.” Whether Henry meant the Chamber of Commerce, or the Chamber of Horrors, is unknown.
Earlier this year, the national GOP hired Tobin’s wife, Ellen, as a consultant to the re-election campaign of Sen Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). Despite never having worked as a political consultant in her life, Mrs. Tobin has thus far received $386K in salary through Northeast Strategies, a firm that lists the Tobins’ Bangor, ME home as its address. Does this look and smell like more hush money funneled to Tobin from the RNC? Do Bush’s brain, Karl Rove, and RNC Chair Ken Mehlman care?
At Tobin’s sentencing, Federal Judge Steven McAuliffe opined that we may never know if the wrong person was sent to the US Senate as a result of the scheme. That might be a logistical stretch; for it to have made the difference in the margin of Sununu’s plurality over Shaheen, each of the five ride-to-the-polls locations would have had to produce more than 1000 votes per hour for Shaheen – a volume well-beyond the firefighters’ GOTV capacity.
Nevertheless, the legal definition of conspiracy doesn’t hinge on the success of a criminal plan – it doesn’t even require that that phase of the crime be committed.
As politicians from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton have learned to their undying detriment, covering up a small crime has large consequences.
A ruling on the NHDSC’s motion is expected next month.
Also see: Jamming, Jammus, Jammerama, Abramoff