Former Bush Campaign Chief Pleads Innocent

President Bush's former New England campaign chairman pleaded innocent Monday to charges that he took part in the jamming of the Democrats' get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002.

James Tobin, 44, was charged with conspiracy to commit telephone harassment and aiding and abetting. He could get up to five years in prison if convicted; his trial begins Feb. 1.

Neither Tobin nor his lawyers would comment afterward.

Tobin, who was northeast political director of the Republican Senatorial Committee in 2002, was indicted Dec. 1 after an investigation by the Justice Department. He is free on his own recognizance.

Tobin stepped down as Bush's regional campaign chairman Oct. 15, when state Democrats said in a separate civil lawsuit they believed he took part in the phone-jamming scheme. When he was indicted two weeks ago, he said he would fight to clear his name.

Two other Republicans have pleaded guilty in the phone-jamming operation and are scheduled to be sentenced in February and March.

In 2002, six phone lines run by the Democrats and the Manchester firefighters union were tied up for 1 1/2 hours by 800 computer-generated hang-up calls. Federal prosecutors said Tobin and other Republicans had hired a company to make the calls to disrupt the organizations' get-out-the-vote efforts.

Among the races affected by the jamming was the Senate contest between Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Rep. John E. Sununu. Sununu won by about 20,000 votes.