Given the news that James Tobin has been indicted for making false statements to the FBI in connection with their investigation into the GOP plot to jam Democratic phones on Election Day 2002, it’s worth stepping back a bit to recap how we got to this point.
In 2002, Republican John Sununu and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen were in a tight race for an open Senate seat. On Election Day, over 800 computerized hang-up calls jammed phone lines set up by the Democratic party and the Manchester firefighters’ union for get-out-the-vote activities on behalf of Shaheen and other Democratic candidates. Sununu won the race by about 20,00 votes.
At the time, Tobin was the regional director, overseeing New Hampshire, for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
In 2004, Charles McGee, the head of the New Hampshire GOP at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the scheme. Allen Raymond, a Republican consultant whose firm was hired by McGee to carry out the plan, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Both have served jail time for their roles in the affair.
As for Tobin, his legal proceedings have been more complicated. He was convicted of putting McGee and Raymond in touch, and sentenced to jail time. But he never served time — the conviction was overturned on appeal in March 2007, with a court ruling that the government had not shown that Tobin intended to harass. It remanded the case to a U.S. District Court in Concord, where a judge acquitted Tobin in February of this year, saying his ruling had been “constrained” by the appeals court ruling. In March, the government appealed that decision. That appeal was making its way through the courts when last week’s indictment for making false statements was filed.
From the start, there has been evidence tying senior White House and Republican party figures to the case. The Republican National Committee has admitted to paying Tobin’s legal bills during that case, totaling nearly $3 million.*
And phone records released in the case show that Tobin made two dozen calls to the office of then-White House political director Ken Mehlman within a three-day period around Election Day 2002. Mehlman has said none of the calls involved the phone-jamming incident.
* This paragraph has been edited from a previous version.