By Greg Gordon
Tuesday 18 December 2007
Washington - A former GOP political operative who ran an illegal election-day scheme to jam the phone lines of New Hampshire Democrats during the state's tight 2002 U.S. Senate election said in a new book and an interview that he believes the scandal reaches higher into the Republican Party.
Allen Raymond of Bethesda, Md., whose book Simon & Schuster will publish next month, also accused the Republican Party of trying to hang all the blame for a scandal on him as part of an "old-school cover-up."
Raymond's book, "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative," offers a raw, inside glimpse of the phone scandal as it unraveled and of a ruthless world in which political operatives seek to win at all costs.
McClatchy obtained an advance copy of the book.
The 2002 New Hampshire Senate race, in which GOP Rep. John Sununu edged Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen by 19,000 votes, was among several targeted by Republicans seeking to win control of the U.S. Senate.
Raymond said those who've tried to make him the fall guy for the New Hampshire scheme failed to recognize that e-mails, phone records and other evidence documented the complicity of a top state GOP official and the Republican National Committee's northeast regional director.
Both men were later convicted of charges related to the phone harassment, along with Raymond and an Idaho phone bank operator. Defense lawyers have since won a retrial for James Tobin, the former regional director for both the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
A lawyer for Tobin didn't respond to phone messages.
GOP committees have paid Washington law firms more than $6 million to defend Tobin and to fight a Democratic civil suit against the party. Raymond, himself a former RNC official, said in the book and an interview that he believes that the scandal reaches higher.
"Any tactic that didn't pass the smell test would never see the light of day without, - at the very least, the approval of an RNC attorney," he wrote.
Paul Twomey, a lawyer for the New Hampshire Democratic party, said that phone records obtained in the civil suit showed that Tobin made 22 calls to the White House political office in the 24 hours before and after the jamming.
Twomey said Tobin refused to testify about the calls, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Asked about Raymond's book, RNC spokesman Danny Diaz said that "it would be hard to find two less credible individuals" than Raymond and his co-author, Ian Spiegelman, who lost his job as a New York Post gossip columnist for sending a threatening e-mail accusing a source of trying to plant a fake story. The RNC also distributed material emphasizing that Raymond had a reputation for bare-knuckled politics and dirty tricks.
Raymond, 40, who served three months in jail last year, said he earned a graduate degree in political management at New York's Baruch University solely to make money off politics, and it made no difference to him whether he was a Republican or a Democrat.
He soon climbed the GOP ranks to get jobs with the RNC and the GOP's senatorial committee, before borrowing $250,000 from a group headed by former RNC chairman Haley Barbour in 2001 to set up a consulting firm specializing in phone bank services.
One of his tactics, Raymond said, was angering union households with calls in which people with Latin-sounding voices talked favorably about a rival candidate's support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. And he used the voice of an angry black man, posing as a Democrat, to stir up "fear, racism, bigotry" in white neighborhoods.
Shortly before the November election, New Hampshire Republicans hired his Alexandria, Va.-based consulting firm, GOP Marketplace, for $15,600 to barrage Democrats' phone lines on Election Day with 800 hang-up calls per hour amid the tight Senate race between Sununu and Shaheen.
The tactic was aimed at disrupting efforts by five Democratic offices and a firefighters' union in Manchester, N.H., to shuttle voters to the polls. The state Republican Party chairman, John Dowd, halted the calls after the first hour, saying he feared that the operation was illegal.
Raymond said it was Tobin who first phoned him 2 1/2 weeks before the election and asked if he could jam Democrats' phone lines, connecting him with Charles McGee, the executive director of the New Hampshire GOP.
However, he said, when he phoned Tobin after Sununu's 19,000-vote election victory to tell him that a Manchester, N.H., police officer was looking into the scheme, Tobin responded, "I don't know what you're talking about."
Raymond said he was seething with anger in the ensuing weeks as he read news reports of McGee denying knowledge of the scheme.
In early 2003, Raymond recalled, the state GOP wrote to demand its money back.
"They were going to throw me under the bus," Raymond wrote, "but first they wanted to check my pockets to see if there was any cash there."
Raymond and McGee pleaded guilty to harassment charges. Their cooperation with investigators led to Tobin's conviction.
Raymond predicted that political dirty tricks "will only get tougher, nastier, more brutal" in coming elections.
As for his three months in a Pennsylvania prison, he wrote: "After 10 full years inside the GOP, 90 days among honest criminals wasn't really any great ordeal."