While many of us have understandably been preoccupied for the past few years with the scandals of Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, the Ohio Republicans, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, Duke Cunningham, and Bill Frist, Josh Marshall may have been quite prescient in watching the progress of perhaps the most damaging scandal of all. As far back as February of 2003, Talking Points Memo was covering the slow-motion train wreck that eventually came to be known as the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal.
In 2002, high-level Republican operative James Tobin, working with the New Hampshire Republican Party, hired a phone-banking company to crash the phones of the state's Democrats and Manchester's firefighters' union while both groups were working on get-out-the-vote efforts. Though games of 'what-if' rarely produce any meaningful analysis, it's important to note that Governor Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic candidate, only lost the race to Republican John Sununu by a margin of 51% to 46%.
Admittedly, this is all old news. Tobin was convicted last December for his role in the scandal, after being testified against by former NH GOP head Chuck McGee and Allen Raymond, the president of GOP Marketplace, the firm Tobin contracted with for the phone-jamming. Both McGee and Raymond also pled guilty. It was not clear when the story was first broken how high the scandal went. With McGee the one-time head of the state party and Tobin the New England chairman for Bush-Cheney 2004, it was clear even on the surface that it was always pretty high. But now new analysis suggests that the responsibility for this dirty tricks campaign went all the way to the top.
Key figures in a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in 2002 had regular contact with the White House and Republican Party as the plan was unfolding, phone records introduced in criminal court show.
The records show that Bush campaign operative James Tobin, 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....
A Democratic analysis of phone records introduced at Tobin's criminal trial show he made 115 outgoing calls -- mostly to the same number in the White House political affairs office -- between Sept. 17 and Nov. 22, 2002. Two dozen of the calls were made from 9:28 a.m. the day before the election through 2:17 a.m. the night after the voting....
Virtually all the calls to the White House went to the same number, which currently rings inside the political affairs office. In 2002, White House political affairs was led by now-RNC chairman Ken Mehlman. The White House declined to say which staffer was assigned that phone number in 2002.
Couple this with Josh Marshall's assertion that TPM's "reporting (and, from what we can tell, the DOJ's too) strongly suggests there's a nexus between the phone-jamming case and the Abramoff scandal," and this story gets even hotter. The national Republican Party has provided millions of dollars in legal fees to protect Tobin, indicating that they have had a serious stake in making sure the truth about what really happened in New Hampshire in 2002 does not come out.
Republican corruption is a huge knot that ties together their entire party. Until it's untangled, I'm afraid that voters will be left scratching their heads, trying to make sense of it all, without really understanding the connections. But it seems to me that this developing story could go a long way in answering at least a few questions.