Va GOP Party Head Investigated for Wire Tapping

Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw said Thursday that he had been told by reliable sources that Ed Matricardi, executive director of the state GOP, apparently listened in uninvited on two conference calls between Democratic lawmakers on March 22 and Monday.

Gov. Mark Warner participated in the March 22 call, Saslaw said.

Matricardi did not immediately return phone calls late Thursday and Friday from The Associated Press.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Matricardi violated a state law by listening in on the calls, which included discussion of legal strategy in a lawsuit Democrats filed challenging a redistricting plan the GOP-led legislature passed last year.

A circuit judge has ruled the plan unconstitutional and the state Supreme Court is expected to hear an appeal.

On Wednesday, state police searched Matricardi's office at GOP headquarters, but it wasn't clear whether they confiscated any evidence, the Post reported.

Law enforcement sources told the newspaper police hadn't obtained the tape recording that they believe Matricardi made of the call, but said they had a copy of a GOP transcript of the Democratic session.

Ellen Qualls, spokeswoman for Warner, said State Police Superintendent Col. W. Gerald Massengill informed the governor's office about an investigation "related to the Republican Party of Virginia." She declined to elaborate.

"The governor has no comment because it's a pending criminal investigation," Qualls said.

Massengill said he could not confirm the existence of an investigation. Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said he had referred information of possible misconduct involving a taped conversation to State Police.

Gary Thomson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said he and employees at GOP headquarters "have been contacted by people in authority. I and the staff at RPV have been cooperating."

Under Virginia law, monitoring a telephone call without proper authorization — the prior consent of at least one person on the call — is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, or 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.