As we’ve been discussing Ronnie Earle’s case against Tom DeLay in Texas, many have asked why it is that the RNC appears in the indictment as a party to the money-laundering but not as a target of the indictment itself. Good question. And in that particular case I have no inside knowledge of why that would be so. But there are a number of different criminal investigations now underway connected to Republican pols in different parts of the country. And we should be aware that several of them are becoming connected in ways that are not yet clear.
Take, for instance, the 2002 New Hampshire election tampering case which has been dragging on now for almost three years. The former Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican party and Republican political consultant Allen Raymond have already taken pleas and gone to prison. James Tobin, who then worked as the Northeast political director for Bill Frist’s National Republican Senatorial Committee and the RNC, is now awaiting trial for his role in the scheme.
Through the life of the case, Justice Department lawyers have never seemed in a particular hurry to move the case along or to work it higher up the food chain of those who might have been involved. But that now appears to be changing.
For the duration of the case, the prosecution had been in the hands of Todd Hinnen, a Justice Department prosecutor from the Criminal Division’s Computer Crimes Section. At the end of July, however, Hinnen was pulled from the case and reassigned. He’s now reportedly working on cyberterrorism issues at the White House.
At the time, observers in New Hampshire thought this might be another example of the DOJ’s lack of total commitment to the case. After two and half years, and just before the big trial, they were pulling the lead attorney from the case and starting over with someone new.
But the opposite now seems to have been the case.
Hinnen was replaced by another attorney from the Criminal Division’s Computer Crimes Division and, significantly, an attorney from the Public Integrity section. That is, after all, what you’d expect in a case that is about political corruption. The tempo and zeal of the investigation appears to have picked up since the reassignment. And there is reason to believe that the new vigor behind the prosecution and the assignment of a Public Integrity section lawyer to the case has come about because the New Hampshire case has become tied to the ever-expanding Abramoff investigation.