Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bring It On

Former NH Governor Jeanne Shaheen has just announced that she will be running for the US Senate seat currently held by John Sununu, Jr. In 2002, Shaheen and Sununu both ran for that same seat, in a hotly contested race that resulted in a controversial victory. We all remember the phone jamming scandal, where the Republican Party paid a consulting group to hire an Idaho telemarketing firm to jam lines that were being used by the Manchester Democrats to make get out the vote calls, and arrange transportation to the polls. We can only speculate as to how much the jamming of phones in NH’s largest city contributed to the Sununu victory. It was an ugly incident in our nation’s political history, and made uglier by the attempts at a cover-up. The investigation into the phone jamming was conducted at the slowest speed possible, rivaled only by the slowness with which the 2001 anthrax investigation is still being conducted.

Back in 2002, the GOP was determined to hang on to the Senate seat that Bob Smith was vacating. Jeanne Shaheen was a popular governor, and a real threat to the GOP entitlement to that Senate seat. Chuck McGee, who was then the Executive Director of the NH Republican State Committee spoke with James Tobin, who was then the New England Regional Director of the Republican National Committee and the Northeast political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. McGee told Tobin he wanted to hire a telephone service to jam Democratic phone banks on the day of the election.

The job was outsourced to GOP Marketplace, who in turn outsourced the job to Mylo Enterprises, an Idaho telemarketing firm, for $15,6000, which was paid by the NH GOP. After the story broke in 2003, Allen Raymond of GOP Marketplace and Chuck McGee both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in interstate telephone communications with the intent to annoy or harass. James Tobin was convicted as well. You’d think the GOP would want to distance themselves from such a villain – but that has not been the case. In fact, they’ve paid Tobin’s legal fees, to the tune of over $3 million. Tobin appealed his conviction, and was granted a new trial. He’s now moving for a judgement of acquittal.

There are still many unanswered questions in this case. At the top of the list:
• 22 phone calls were made exchanged between the NH GOP and the White House Office of Political Affairs during the period that the phone jamming took place.
• The Republican National Committee paid over $3 million in legal fees. Why?
• John Durkin, (attorney for the GOP defendents) was told by a Department of Justice prosecutor that all decisions in the phone jamming case had to be approved by the Attorney General himself. This ensured that the case went nowhere until after the 2004 election.

Congressman Paul Hodes has recently called upon the House Oversight Committee to investigate whether the White House was illegally involved in the phone jamming, and whether the Department of Justice intentionally mishandled the investigation. Given all that we’ve learned about the Department of Justice in recent months, this is hardly an outrageous suggestion. One might think that we would all want to know if this scandal goes all the way to the White House. One might think that we would all want to know if the Dept. of Justice deliberately stonewalled the investigation. As is so often the case here in NH, one would be wrong.

The reaction from Republicans around the state has been hilariously predictable. There are the screams of outrage about “wasting the taxpayers dollars” on this investigation. I don’t seem to remember that kind of screaming when Kenneth Starr spent $70 million on his bag of nothing investigation. Best of all are the cries of “this happened 6 years ago – it’s ancient history!!” Please remember that the next time a Republican dredges up Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, Gerry Studds, or Bill Clinton for that matter. Apparently the statute of limitations on GOP crimes and misdemeanors is much shorter than the one applied to the rest of us. The bottom line is pretty simple. The GOP does not want this investigation – and not because they have concerns about taxpayer dollars. They have no qualms about spending a billion dollars a day in Iraq. There is only one reason they fear this investigation – they don’t want us to know how far up the ladder the corruption actually reaches.

The Shaheen – Sununu rematch means that the phone jamming scandal will be back in the forefront again. What better time to ensure that the voters of NH finally find out the whole truth? If the White House was not involved, if the Dept. of Justice was not involved, there is no reason to fear investigation. Many of us feel that our election processes have been subverted, beginning in the year 2000, when we were given our first court appointed president. We know that electronic voting machines can be rigged. The voting public is more cynical than ever about the integrity of our elections. We need to restore honesty and transparency to our electoral system, and the best way to begin is by exposing the chicanery of the past.

A common Republican mantra around the Patriot Act goes like this: “if you aren’t guilty, you have nothing to fear.” If that’s the case, the folks in the NH GOP should be telling Congressman Hodes to “bring it on.”

“We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.” Aristotle

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