CONCORD, N.H. – President Bush's (search) former New England campaign chairman was indicted Wednesday on charges he took part in the jamming of the Democrats' get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002.
James Tobin (search), 44, stepped down Oct. 15 — two weeks before Election Day — after the Democrats accused him of involvement.
"I am saddened to learn that this action has been taken against me," he said in a statement. "I have great respect for the justice system and plan to fight back to clear my name."
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.
Tobin was charged with conspiracy to commit telephone harassment (search) and aiding and abetting. He could get up to five years in prison.
At the time of the jamming, Tobin was Northeast political director for the Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate.
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.
The Democrats praised the indictment but questioned its timing.
"I think it's unfortunate the Justice Department delayed, for whatever reasons that it did, until after the election," state Democratic chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said. "I hope this was not delayed for political reasons."
Over the summer, Chuck McGee, former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and admitted paying $15,600 to a Virginia telemarketing company that hired another business to make the calls. A GOP consultant with the telemarketing company also pleaded guilty. The two men are awaiting sentencing.