Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Book Links Jamming to GOP 'High Ups'

Operative imprisoned in case tells his story.

Republican consultant Allen Raymond

The Concord Monitor reports:

The conspiracy to jam New Hampshire Democratic Party phone lines on Election Day 2002 must have gone to the top of the Republican Party, one of the operatives imprisoned in the scheme writes in a forthcoming book.

Republican consultant Allen Raymond writes that he became involved only because he'd been called by James Tobin, then the New England political director for the Republican National Committee.

"The Bush White House had complete control of the RNC, and there was no way someone like Tobin was going to try what he was proposing without first getting it vetted by his high-ups," Raymond wrote in How To Rig an Election, a book set for publication next month. "That's if Tobin, rather than one of his bosses, had even thought of the ploy himself - which seemed unlikely."

Raymond, who once had the same RNC job as Tobin for the mid-Atlantic region, said that before Tobin's call, his telemarketing outfit, GOP Marketplace, had been shut out of RNC jobs. Allen figured he'd lost favor because he publicly aired his disdain for Bush and feuded with a Bush vendor. "I figured this was the Dare - the Bushies' way of making me prove my stripes to get back into the club," he wrote.

In an interview, Raymond said the book had two aims: To entertain - he said he aimed for a cross between Ball Four and Wise Guys (the book Goodfellas was based on) - and to follow the adage "sunlight's the best disinfectant."

"Anybody who reads this book and is mad at me has no sense of humor," he said.

The Monitor obtained an advance copy yesterday. The book is set for release Jan. 8, the day of New Hampshire's presidential primary.

Former gossip columnist Ian Spiegelman, who used to write the New York Post's Page Six, co-wrote the book, which is full of vulgar, colorful language. Raymond said he was connected with Spiegelman through his agent.

"The gossip world at the level he was working is highly charged, highly political," Raymond said. "So I knew that he'd understand what I was talking about."

President Bush is described as a "Connecticut-raised cowboy who'd been blind drunk until he was forty." Steve Forbes, whose presidential campaign Raymond worked for in 2000, "looked like he'd been put together on an operating table" and "had a stammering speech pattern that made you think he was on the verge of a seizure."

Raymond, 40, also knocks the Republican Party that employed him for nearly a decade. "Ever hear the one about the president who picked a land war in the Middle East?" he writes. "Or the one about the vice president who took a scattergun to an old man's face? And then got the old man to apologize for getting shot? That's the type I was dealing with."

Tobin, meanwhile, is painted as a moderate New Englander who'd gone to work for Bush's campaign and "reinvented himself as a full-fledged, Bible-thumping, fear-mongering acolyte for the Holy Connecticut Cowboy."

The U.S. attorneys who handled Tobin's trial also don't escape derision. Prosecutors Nick Marsh and Andrew Levchuk are described as the "pair from Keystone" who "knew exactly nothing" when they took over the case.

The phone-jamming scheme involved repeated hang-up calls made to jam six phone lines - five at the Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote operation and one for a firefighters union offering rides to the polls. Raymond writes that the plan was to tie up the lines all day, but it was aborted after 90 minutes on orders from then-state Republican Party Chairman John Dowd, who insisted it was illegal.

The calls were made on the day of the down-to-the-wire Senate race between Jeanne Shaheen and John Sununu, whose names are almost afterthoughts in the book, mentioned only after pages of discussing the scheme. Sununu won the election by 19,571 votes; the two may face a rematch next year.

Raymond, who served three months in federal prison, and two other men pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy charges for their roles in the scheme. Chuck McGee, executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party at the time, came up with the idea. Idaho telemarketer Shaun Hansen owned the company that made the calls.

As the phone-jamming blew up in the press and the FBI investigated, Allen wrote, the RNC opted for "the old-school cover-up" route.

Tobin pleaded not guilty, went to trial and was convicted of telephone harassment in 2005. This spring, an appeals court overturned the ruling and sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Concord for further arguments. Tobin is slated for a new trial in February, though Judge Steven McAuliffe is considering a motion to acquit him.

To Raymond, Tobin was the scheme's "linchpin," and he wrote that he "couldn't believe it" when he read in the newspaper that Tobin pleaded not guilty.

"Now, Tobin was not mentally defective; he could not have believed his own lies," Raymond wrote. To Raymond, he said, the key question is: "Who is he protecting?"

Raymond repeatedly notes that the RNC has paid millions for Tobin's legal defense. "My old pals at the Republican National Committee were spending almost $3 million on my coconspirator's legal defense because he was still a loyal member of the GOP family, while at the same time labeling me a liar, a rogue and a thief to any news outlet that would listen," he wrote.

The smaller details of being a man under indictment are also detailed in the book.

Raymond went to great pains to convince lawyers at the Department of Justice that he wasn't what they were expecting - "a slimy D.C. scoundrel in a Gucci suit, French cuffs, tassel shoes and a fat watch." When he was under investigation, he owned three watches worth a total of $6,000 - so he went to CVS and bought a Timex. He also pulled out the first suit he'd owned, "a power tie from 1990" and loafers with a whole.

"When I put the whole ensemble together, (my wife) Elizabeth just clucked her tongue and gave me the thumbs-up," he wrote. "And then I jumped into my Audi and went to my meeting."

In addition to phone jamming, Raymond elaborates on other political dirty tricks, such as using racial tensions to target phone calls in a New Jersey congressional race that sounded as if they were coming in support of his opponent. He deployed the "angry black man" voice on Eastern European Democrats and used actors with "thick Spanish accents" to tape calls aimed at union households.

These days, Raymond said, he's promoting his book, coaching little league and working at a few business ventures on the side. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area with his wife and two elementary-school-age sons.

He's done with working in politics. As a felon, he said, he's not allowed to vote. But if he could, he'd call himself undeclared, no longer a Republican.

"I love politics, but I'm done. I'll never make a living in politics again," Raymond said in the interview. "After what I went through, one, who would hire me? And two, why would I ever want to work for anybody who would hire me?"