NBC: Landrieu Plot Aimed To Test Sen’s Response To Disabled Phone System

January 28, 2010 4:07 a.m.

Mystery solved? NBC is reporting that James O’Keefe and his three companions were carrying out a plan to gauge how the staff of Sen. Mary Landrieu would respond if their office phone system were disabled, following complaints by conservative constituents that anti-health reform calls were not getting through to the New Orleans office.

Republicans have slammed Landrieu in recent months over what they’ve dubbed the “new Louisiana Purchase” — a reference to extra Medicare funding for the state she won in the Senate health care bill. And Rasmussen found just 34% of voters in the state, where tea partiers have targeted Landrieu for her support of reform, back the health plan.Though given the uncertain state of health reform, it seems like an odd time for O’Keefe and co. to launch an operation centering on the issue.

Here’s the key part of the new NBC report, which at least partly backs up a theory first raised by Marcy Wheeler:

A law enforcement official told NBC News that the four men were not trying to intercept or wiretap the calls.

Instead the men, led by O’Keefe, wanted to see how her staff would respond if the phones were inoperative, the official said.

They were apparently motivated by local criticism of Landrieu — some voters reportedly felt it was too difficult to get through to her office to register their views.

Citing law enforcement officials, Keith Olbermann said on the air last night that O’Keefe wanted to see whether Landrieu’s staff responded to a broken phone system by laughing it off, or by expressing concern about the plight of constituents trying to make their views known in vain.

As we noted yesterday, the initial reports that the alleged operation was an attempted “bugging” appear to have been wrong.

There were local reports back in December that access to Landrieu’s phones has been an issue. Here’s the Baton Rouge Advocate on Dec. 23:

The Family Research Council is a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that claims it wants to shape public policy “as it pertains to families” from what Perkins calls “a Christian perspective.”

“We were stunned to learn that so many phone calls to Sen. Landrieu have been unanswered and met with continuous busy signals,” Perkins said. “We asked them to call their senators. They could get through to Sen. Vitter, but not Sen. Landrieu.”

“Our lines have been jammed for weeks, and I apologize,” Landrieu said in interview after giving a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday. “But no amount of jamming is going to keep me from supporting a good work for Louisiana and the nation.”

O’Keefe and his three companions were charged Tuesday with with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony. TPMmuckraker’s full coverage of the case is here.

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