As you know, here at TPM we've been reporting on the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming case for going on three years. There have now been a couple of guilty pleas. The former executive director of the state GOP is in prison. And, as we were the first to report, Jim Tobin, the former Northeast political director of the NRSC who orchestrated the scam, is now awaiting trial.
Now, in 2002 the NRSC (the National Republican Senatorial Committee) was run by Sen. Frist. Tobin worked for Frist. And Tobin is now under indictment for criminal conspiracy and election tampering for what he did while working as Frist's regional political director for the Northeast.
Not surprisingly, Republicans have tried to distance themselves from Tobin's action, implying that, if guilty, Tobin's scheme was no more than one man's rogue operation. Frist has basically managed to avoid answering any questions about it for two years.
But now comes word that Tobin's legal bills may be being paid by the RNC.
Today's Manchester Union Leader -- not exactly a liberal sheet -- reports that recently filed court documents show that one of Tobin's attorneys was representing him "in his capacity as an employee of the Republican National Committee."
Tobin's attorneys come from Williams & Connolly (a high profile DC firm that represents many in both parties). And the latest RNC disclosure filings show half a million dollars paid to W&C for "legal services."
The money to W&C means little in itself. They probably do various stuff for the RNC.
But most telling, the RNC refused to answer the Union Leader's questions about whether they were paying for Tobin's defense.
Remember, Tobin is under indictment for tampering with a federal election. Two of his alleged co-conspirators have already pled guilty and received jail sentences. Why would the RNC be footing the bill for his defense? And if they're not, why won't they say so?
Thoughts? We've got a discussion thread going on this over at TPMCafe.