Tuesday, December 18, 2007

GOP Trickster Says He Was A Scapegoat

Phone jammer claims higher-ups in the party took part in the scheme in New Hampshire

The Houston Chronicle reports:

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 GOP of trying to hang 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 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 have 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 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 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.

Raymond, who served three months in jail last year, said he earned a graduate degree in political management solely to make money off politics, and it made no difference to him whether he was a Republican or a Democrat.