Former Bush assistant denies phone-jamming

0

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – A former White House political director denied Tuesday that he or anyone on his staff spoke with New England Republicans about a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in 2002.

Ken Mehlman, now chairman of the Republican National Committee, acknowledged that local GOP officials had called a White House operative in the days surrounding the election. But he said none of the conversations involved the phone-jamming incident.

“As White House political director during the 2002 election cycle, my staff and I regularly communicated with competitive congressional campaigns and Republican Party organizations,” Mehlman said.

On Nov. 5, 2002, repeated hang-up calls jammed telephone lines at a Democratic get-out-the-vote center during a New Hampshire Senate race in which Republican John Sununu defeated Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, 51 percent to 46 percent.

Phone records introduced in court show that Bush campaign operative James Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, who recently was convicted in the case, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period around Election Day 2002 – as the phone jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down. At the time, Tobin was New England chairman of Bush’s re-election campaign and a top regional official of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The Justice Department has secured three convictions in the case but hasn’t accused any White House or national Republican officials of wrongdoing, nor made any allegations suggesting party officials outside of New Hampshire were involved. The phone records of calls to the White House were exhibits in Tobin’s trial but prosecutors did not make them part of their case.

Mehlman’s statement came after state Democrats argued in court Tuesday they were entitled to find out whether anyone in the White House or at the Republican National Committee knew about the phone-jamming. Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean also sent a letter to Mehlman earlier in the day, asking him whether the White House or the national GOP authorized the scheme.

Republican lawyers argued that a state judge should dismiss the civil lawsuit alleging voter fraud, saying that it was filed shortly before the 2004 election as a public relations stunt to embarrass Republicans. Lawyers for Democrats said they are entitled to more evidence, in light of the timing of the calls and because many went to a government office.

Judge Philip Mangones said he would issue a decision later.

Advertisement
SHARE