By KATHARINE WEBSTER
Associated Press writer
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The former New England
chairman of President Bush’s re-election campaign
pleaded innocent in federal court Monday to charges he
helped jam Democrats’ get-out-the-vote phone lines on
Election Day 2002.
James Tobin, 44, of Bangor, Maine, faces two
criminal counts each of conspiring to make harassing
telephone calls and aiding and abetting telephone
harassment. The operation also involved a
ride-to-the-polls phone line set up by the nonpartisan
Manchester firefighters’ union.
Tobin, who was northeast political director of the
Republican Senatorial Committee at the time, was
indicted Dec. 1 after an investigation by the U.S.
Department of Justice. He faces up to five years in
federal prison if convicted.
Tobin is free on personal recognizance and
prosecutors agreed he did not pose a flight risk or a
danger to the public.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge James Muirhead ordered
him to surrender his passport and any weapons Monday
and said he should report to pre-trial services, just
like any other criminal defendant.
Muirhead threatened to jail Tobin if he gets so
much as a speeding ticket before his trial begins Feb.
"He’s no different than a street hooker in
Manchester," Muirhead said. "If he’s guilty, then I
find his crime as offensive as any other crime."
Disrupting the electoral process is an "outrage
against the constitution," Muirhead said.
Tobin stepped down as Bush’s regional campaign
chairman on Oct. 15, when state Democrats said in a
separate civil lawsuit they believed he took part in
the phone-jamming scheme.
Tobin and his lawyers, Brian Tucker of Concord and
Dennis Black of Washington, declined to comment
Tobin denied any involvement when he was first
named, but said he was resigning for the sake of
Bush’s re-election campaign. When he was indicted two
weeks ago, he said he would fight to clear his name.
Kathy Sullivan, chairwoman of the state Democratic
Party, said after Tobin’s arraignment she was glad the
judge was taking the charges seriously.
"The court understands that this crime was
outrageous and an attempt to undercut our electoral
process," she said.
She also criticized Tom Rath, the Republican
National Committeeman from New Hampshire, for allowing
a member of his law firm — Tucker — to represent
Tobin. Rath did not immediately return a call seeking
Two other Republicans have pleaded guilty to one
count each of conspiracy in the phone-jamming
operation: Chuck McGee, former executive director of
the New Hampshire Republican party; and Allen Raymond,
a former colleague of Tobin’s who operated GOP
Marketplace, a telemarketing service in Alexandria,
Va. They are scheduled to be sentenced in February and
In past court proceedings, prosecutors have said
McGee planned the phone-jamming operation and
discussed it with a "high-ranking official in the New
Hampshire State Republican Committee." So far, that
official has not been named or charged.
Tobin is accused of putting McGee in touch with
Raymond after McGee complained he could not find a
telemarketer able or willing to carry out his plan.
McGee then wrote a $15,600 check, using state
Republican party funds, to GOP Marketplace, according
to court records.
GOP Marketplace in turn paid an Idaho telemarketing
company $2,500 to place hundreds of computerized
hang-up calls to five phone lines used by state
Democrats and one used by the Manchester firefighters’
union, the indictment says. More than 800 hang-up
calls tied up the phones for nearly an hour and a
half, before the unnamed official ordered McGee to
stop the jamming.
One of the races affected was the U.S. Senate
contest between Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and
Republican U.S. Rep. John E. Sununu. It was considered
very tight, but Sununu ended up winning by about
Tobin founded a communications and political
consulting company in Bangor before getting into GOP
politics. He previously served as national political
director for publisher Steve Forbes’ presidential