Sunday, December 03, 2006

GOP pays $135K in N.H. call jamming suit

Yahoo! News
GOP pays $135K in N.H. call jamming suit
By DAVID TIRRELL-WYSOCKI, Associated Press Writer

State and national Republicans will pay $135,000 to settle a suit involving a scheme to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote calls on Election Day 2002, officials said Saturday.

"Although we believed our case was very strong, the cost of the trial as well as expected appeals by the New Hampshire Democratic Party would have easily matched or exceeded the present value of the settlement," state Republican Chairman Wayne Semprini said.

Republicans had hired a telemarketing firm to place hundreds of hang-up calls to phone banks for the Democratic Party and the Manchester firefighters union, a nonpartisan group offering rides to the polls. Service was disrupted for nearly two hours.

Democrats had wanted more than $4 million in damages — the cost of seven months' work for the get-out-the-vote effort. Republicans maintained they should only have had to pay about $4,000 — the cost of rental and use of the phones.

Semprini said the Republican State Committee deplored the phone-jamming incident and does not endorse illegal or improper election tactics.

"My only regret in settling this matter is that the public at large will never know the whole, real story and that is that the phone jamming scheme was the act of a few unauthorized individuals and not that of the Republican Party," he said.

The state party will pay $125,000 over five years. The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will pay $5,000 each. Half of that money will go to a charitable organization benefiting Manchester firefighters, and half to a group that supports police officers, who investigated the case.

State Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said the settlement will dent GOP contributions.

"Over the next five years, every time a Republican donor makes a donation to the Republican State Committee, they will know a portion of that is going to the Democratic Party," she said.

Democrats said the jamming disrupted efforts to get people to the polls to vote in races including the Senate contest between then-Rep. John Sununu and Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Sununu won by nearly 20,000 votes, 51-46 percent.

The settlement announced Friday ended the civil lawsuit, three days before it was to go to trial. But criminal proceedings continue.

Former Republican State Committee Executive Director Charles McGee and consultant Allen Raymond served federal prison terms after pleading guilty to telephone harassment charges. McGee admitted masterminding the plot and paying Raymond $15,000 from the state Republican fund to find someone to carry out the scheme.

Former Republican National Committee operative James Tobin is appealing his telephone harassment conviction.