CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted James Tobin, President Bush’s former New England campaign chairman, on four counts related to the Republican jamming of get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002.

State Democrats, who have filed a lawsuit over the jamming, had accused Tobin in October of involvement in the conspiracy.

Tobin, 44, stepped down Oct. 15, but denied involvement at the time.

“I am saddened to learn that this action has been taken against me,” he said Wednesday in a statement. “I have great respect for the justice system and plan to fight back to clear my name.”

The four-count indictment charges Tobin with conspiracy to commit telephone harassment and aiding and abetting telephone harassment. He is the highest-level Republican official to be implicated in the case and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

The 2002 jamming consisted of computer-generated calls to get-out-the-vote phones run by state Democrats and the nonpartisan Manchester firefighters’ union. More than 800 hang-up calls tied up phones for about 1 hours.

The jamming’s intent was to “annoy and harass those called and disrupt those two organizations’ efforts to encourage and assist citizens in exercising their right to vote,” the Justice Department said in a news release.

The Department identified Tobin as one of several people who orchestrated the jamming.

Democrats praised the indictment, but said it was overdue.

“I think it’s unfortunate the Justice Department delayed, for whatever reasons that it did, until after the election,” state Democratic chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said. “I hope this was not delayed for political reasons. Here we are, four weeks after the election, and President Bush’s former New England campaign chairman is indicted.”

Tobin in 2002 was northeast political director for the Republican Senatorial Committee, the party operation working to elect Republicans to the Senate.

Among the races affected by the phone jamming was the U.S. Senate contest between Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican U.S. Rep. John E. Sununu.

The election was considered a cliffhanger, though Sununu ended up winning by about 20,000 votes.

Chuck McGee, the former executive director of the state GOP, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a conspiracy charge in summer. He also admitted paying $15,600 to a telemarketing firm, GOP Marketplace of Alexandria, Va.

Prosecutors say GOP Marketplace then hired another business to make the calls. Republican consultant Allen Raymond, GOP Marketplace’s former president, also pleaded guilty in summer to a conspiracy charge in federal court.

McGee and Raymond are to be sentenced in February and March. The indictment describes Tobin as go-between who put the two men in touch.

Sullivan said Democrats will continue to pursue their lawsuit and are determined to trace the funding behind the jamming.

“What I’m looking forward to is a complete and thorough uncovering of who knew about this and where the money came from,” she said.

Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, founded a communications and political consulting company there before getting into GOP politics. Before his latest jobs, he served as national political director for publisher Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign.



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