The New Hampshire Phone Scam
On Election Day in 2002, when New Hampshire voters were going to the polls in a hotly contested Senate race, the phone lines in Democratic get-out-the-vote offices were jammed. The executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party pleaded guilty to phone harassment charges, but there has never been an adequate investigation of reports that the White House may have been involved.
Paul Hodes, a New Hampshire congressman, is asking the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate. It should conduct the searching inquiry that the Justice Department has not.
The Bush administration has spent a lot of time talking about mythical cases of voter fraud and election improprieties, but the New Hampshire phone jamming case was the real thing. Republican operatives hired an Idaho telemarketing firm to jam the lines to prevent people who needed help in voting from getting through. The scheme was a direct attack on American democracy.
After the guilty plea from its executive director, the New Hampshire Republican Party paid to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the state’s Democrats. There is reason to believe, however, that the phone jamming ploy may have been coordinated out of the White House. Democrats say there were 22 phone calls between New Hampshire Republican officials and the White House Office of Political Affairs on election night and early the next morning.
Mr. Hodes says that rather than trying to learn the truth, the Justice Department has engaged in unlawful interference to block the investigation. He reports that according to one of the defense lawyers, the attorney general personally had to sign off on all actions in the case, an extraordinary rule that would slow things down considerably. According to Mr. Hodes, the only F.B.I. agent assigned to the case was told that she could not pursue leads to Washington.
It is shocking to think that anyone in the White House was involved in a dirty trick designed to prevent Americans from exercising their democratic rights. Unfortunately, after this year’s revelations about the firing of United States attorneys for partisan political reasons, the possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House oversight committee, has a lot to investigate these days, but he should find time for the serious inquiry into the New Hampshire phone jamming case to which American voters are entitled.
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.