Lawmaker: ‘Full airing’ needed in Tobin case

Posted May 27, 2009, at 3:28 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A New Hampshire congressman said Wednesday he will continue to press for a “full airing,” despite federal prosecutors’ decision to drop their case against a GOP organizer they accused in a plot to jam Democratic phone lines in New Hampshire during the 2002 election.

Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes was responding to news that the federal government has ended its prosecution of former Republican political organizer James Tobin of Bangor.

Tobin, 48, was accused of making false statements to FBI agents investigating the plot.

The case against Tobin came to a quiet conclusion last week when a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston dismissed an appeal by prosecutors.

Tobin had already been cleared in federal court in New Hampshire of taking part in a plot to arrange more than 800 hang-up calls that jammed get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002.

Then the government brought charges in Maine of lying to investigators, and a judge dismissed those before the case went on to the federal appeals court.

The legal case against Tobin may be over, Hodes said, but questions remain.

“New Hampshire’s citizens deserve a full airing of what transpired in 2002,” Hodes said in a written statement. “Granite Staters deserve fair elections and hopefully this case will serve as a warning to those who would seek to tamper with New Hampshire’s electoral process.”

Tobin did not immediately respond to a phone message left Wednesday at his home.

During hearings last year of the House Judiciary Committee, Hodes urged his colleagues to focus on key “unanswered questions” about whether the George W. Bush administration played a role in the plot and whether the Justice Department dragged its feet on the case for political reasons.

Hodes has said the public deserves to know whether political interference delayed prosecution of the case until after the 2004 elections and Bush’s re-election.

“I plan to continue to work with the House Judiciary Committee to unearth all details regarding the Justice Department’s investigation of the 2002 phone jamming scandal,” Hodes said in his statement.

The hang-up calls jammed phone lines set up by the state Democratic Party and the Manchester firefighters’ union for more than an hour on Election Day, when Republican John Sununu won a Senate race against then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.

Sununu won by nearly 20,000 votes in 2002, so the jammed phone lines probably had little impact on the outcome of the race.

At the time, Tobin was regional political director for the Republican National Committee and the GOP Senate election committee, overseeing Senate campaigns in several states. In 2004, he stepped down as New England chairman of Bush’s re-election campaign when Democrats accused him of playing a role in the phone jamming.

Phone records from Tobin’s 2005 trial in federal court in New Hampshire show he made two dozen calls to the White House political office around Election Day 2002, as the phone-jamming operation was finalized, carried out and abruptly shut down.

The office was run in 2002 by Ken Mehlman. He has denied that any of Tobin’s calls were related to the jamming, contending that the discussions focused only on the close election won by Sununu.

Associated Press writer David Sharp contributed to this report.

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