Did the White House have a hand in phone-jamming scheme?

Phone records of convicted schemer suggest a link.

Tim Grieve
April 11, 2006 6:15PM (UTC)

Republican operative James Tobin was convicted in December of participating in a scheme to jam the phone lines of Democrats trying to get out the vote in the 2002 New Hampshire Senate race. Now Granite State Democrats have a question for the Bush administration: Why was Tobin spending so much time talking to the White House as the phone-jamming scheme unfolded?

As the Union Leader reported last month, court records show that Tobin placed more than 75 calls to the White House between Sept. 30 and Nov. 22, 2002. The calls appear to have gone to the office of Ken Mehlman, who was the White House director of political affairs and is now the chairman of the Republican National Committee. "With that many calls, I believe its inconceivable that there wasnt some knowledge of this at the White House," the Senate Majority Project's Mike Gehrke told the Union Leader in March. "At the very least, it is evidence that there needs to be a bigger net cast here before the end of this case."


The Democrats are casting that net now. As the Associated Press reports, they've filed a civil fraud case that builds upon Tobin's criminal conviction, and today they're asking the federal judge hearing that case to order the White House and national Republican officials to explain whether the phone calls from Tobin mean that they were aware of or involved in the phone-jamming scheme. The GOP calls the suggestion "preposterous."

Update: As Raw Story is reporting, DNC Chairman Howard Dean has written Mehlman a letter in which he asks him to say definitively whether anyone at the White House or the RNC authorized the phone-jamming scheme. Noting that Mehlman has often stressed the importance of making sure that every vote counts, Dean says that "America deserves to know exactly how deeply the White House and the RNC were involved in the planning and execution of this scheme."

Update 2: Mehlman issued a statement this afternoon in which he said that, as the White House political director, "none of my conversations nor the conversations of my staff, involved discussion of the phone-jamming incident." Mehlman's denial did not seem to address the other half of Dean's query -- that is, the question of involvement by the RNC.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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