We speak with former Republican operative Allen Raymond, who served time in federal prison for jamming phone lines of the New Hampshire Democratic Party in 2002 to block a Democratic get-out-the-vote campaign. Raymond has come out with a tell-all book called How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. In addition to the phone-jamming scheme, Raymond details other Republican tactics such as the use of scripted, phony automated phone messages to try to play on white voters’ racial prejudices in a 2000 New Jersey congressional race. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: As we continue on election news, New Hampshire is not just known as a key primary state; it’s also gained attention for hosting one of the biggest election scandals of the last decade. On Election Day in November 2002, the telephone lines at the New Hampshire Democrats’ voting headquarters received scores of hang-up calls in a phone-jamming scheme intended to block a Democratic get-out-the-vote campaign. The Republicans won the Senate race, with John Sununu beating out the Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen for the Senate seat.
Two top Republican campaign officials were later convicted: Charles McGee, then the executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party; and James Tobin, then the northeast regional director of the Republican National Committee. Tobin’s conviction was later overturned pending a retrial.
Democrats say the scheme may have gone higher than New Hampshire Republicans. According to phone records, Tobin made two dozen calls to the White House in the twenty-four-hour period before and after the election.
Also convicted was the head of the telemarketing firm that made the calls on behalf of his Republican clients. Allen Raymond and his company GOP Marketplace received more than $15,000 for the phone-jamming scheme. Raymond served three months in prison in 2006.
Now, Allen Raymond has come out with a tell-all book. It’s called How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. In addition to the phone-jamming scheme, Raymond details other Republican tactics. In a New Jersey congressional race in 2000, Raymond’s firm used scripted, phony automated phone messages to try to play on white voters’ racial prejudices. Carefully selected white households were called with a pre-recorded message featuring an African American speaker urging listeners to vote Democratic. Union households were called with a similar message, but this time with an actor speaking in a heavy Spanish accent. Republicans thought this would take advantage of worker fears of losing their jobs to Latin American immigrants.
Allen Raymond joins us now from Washington, D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Allen.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s start in New Hampshire on Election Day 2002. What were you doing?
ALLEN RAYMOND: Well, on Election Day in 2002 in New Hampshire, we were — it was one of many clients that we had, but in New Hampshire our client was the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. And we were conducting what later became known as the phone-jamming operation, which was an effort to jam telephone lines at a volunteer phone bank in Manchester, New Hampshire, with the intent to disrupt lines of communication — in other words, to disrupt Democrats’ effort to get out the vote on Election Day there.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain exactly — well, first of all, who told you to do this? Who engaged you? Who hired your firm, GOP Marketplace?
ALLEN RAYMOND: Sure, sure. I was originally approached — and this is all detailed in the book — but I was originally approached by Jim Tobin, who had been a former colleague of mine. I had worked at the RNC in more or less the same position that he had at that time, although in a different region of the country. And we had known each other, and he approached me and kind of described the idea of jamming the phone lines and asked me if it could be done. And, you know, like anything, the answer is to that is, you know, anything could be done. Anything is possible.
And so, at that point, he just, you know, gave me — told me to expect a call from Chuck McGee, who was then the executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party. And then, about, you know, a few days later, Mr. McGee gave me a call, detailed again the program as it had been described to me by Mr. Tobin, and, you know, clearly indicated he wanted to proceed. And so, at that point, we took it seriously, and even though I recognized it as an unusual program, I took it seriously, because the original entree to me, the approach to me had been made by an agent of the RNC in New England, so it was not something to be dismissed lightly.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you check with lawyers?
ALLEN RAYMOND: I did, actually. I was on another job at the time, as well, running a 527 issue advocacy group, and I did speak with the attorney there. And we went back and forth —-
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by “527,” Allen.
ALLEN RAYMOND: A 527 is a -— it’s an IRS classification. Essentially, in this context, you know, for instance, your listeners might be most familiar with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. That was a 527 committee. And what they do is they advocate issues in the context of elections.
And so, this attorney had been the attorney for this particular group, and I did run it by him, and we went back and forth in a few conversations. And in advance of Election Day in 2002, he came back to me and said, you know, while he didn’t recommend it, he didn’t see it as being illegal. And that’s an important distinction, because in this business, it’s not necessarily about morality. People like me are hired to engineer victory. And so, one of the things that you learn early on is that oftentimes you’re going right up to the bright line of the law, which is fine. I mean, that’s the reason that you have law. But you’re supposed to stay on the lawful side of the law, which I did not and paid the consequences for that. We can get into that, I’m sure, later. But anyway, I did consult with an attorney, got the green light, and we moved forward.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you do?
ALLEN RAYMOND: Well, frankly, as it comes down, it was a very simple, almost prankish crank call type of thing. We just had people on the phones redialing these six numbers that we had been provided by the New Hampshire Republican Party and Mr. McGee with the intent to jam up those phone lines. And so —-
AMY GOODMAN: And “we” was -— where were the calls coming from?
ALLEN RAYMOND: Well, what we did is we subcontracted it. We outsourced it to a small operation, a small telemarketing firm in Idaho, and, you know, they did the actual calls. But we were the vendor. We were the ones that the New Hampshire Republican State Party was paying to do the work.
AMY GOODMAN: And what were the places you called?
ALLEN RAYMOND: Well, there were two places. One was a — well, no, I’m sorry, one place, and it was the — essentially it was a Democratic phone bank operation in concert with a volunteer effort by the Manchester Fire Department.
AMY GOODMAN: And they were doing a get-out-the-vote campaign in the morning. They were making calls to urge people to go to the polls.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Right, that’s exactly right. I mean, more of a clearinghouse of information, where your poll is located, what time polls open, what time they close, how to get there, do you need assistance, you know, that type of thing, the type of thing that both parties more or less do and have done forever on Election Day.
AMY GOODMAN: And this involved a very close race for Senate between Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor, and John Sununu, who is the senator from New Hampshire now.
ALLEN RAYMOND: That was certainly one of the races on the ballot that day and, as it turned out, a very important race that dictated control of the US Senate. I think that it would be hard to make an argument that this effort had any real impact on that contest. But, yes, that was a very important and, you know, fairly close race, as far as US Senate races go, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain how you got discovered and how you ended up being indicted, convicted, and served time in jail.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Sure, yeah. I don’t want to give away all the stuff about the book, but — and let me say, too, the reason that I wrote this book is — and I like to quote Justice Brandeis in Buckley v. Valeo, which was, you know, sunlight is the best disinfectant. What I’m doing here is I’m being completely candid and transparent about my experience in the Republican Party from more or less the beginning of the Republican Revolution to its demise in 2006, which is when I actually was incarcerated. But the whole point is to, you know, bring some light to this process so that voters have an opportunity to understand what happens and really ask themselves what I think is an important question, which is, you know, why me? Why am I getting this particular piece of direct mail or seeing this television spot or radio spot or maybe even email? Why is a candidate telling me something? What is it they expect me to do?
Now, to get your question — I’m sorry, I went off track there. Ask me that question again.
AMY GOODMAN: Yeah, I was just asking how you ended up being discovered, indicted, etc.?
ALLEN RAYMOND: Sure. Well, we actually — I got a phone call from a Lieutenant Roach in the Manchester Police Department, who was following up an inquiry into this, and he gave me a call. He told me that — you know, at the time, he said, you know, there’s nothing that can be done about it, but he warned me off doing it again. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had never been contacted by any type of law enforcement before on anything I’d ever done in politics.
And I kind of set it aside, but I did put a call into my former colleague who had called me about the job, Mr. Tobin, and relayed to him what happened. And it’s one of these phone conversations, you know, you never forget, which was, I described the conversation, he said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” to which I said, “You know, the job in New Hampshire we did for the state party, the phone-jamming thing.” And he said, you know, “I really — I have no clue what you’re talking about.” And I just — I kind of called him on the bluff. I said, “Of course, you do, Jim. You know exactly what I’m talking about.” And he said, “Yeah, I — you know, oh, now I remember. OK, well, you know, see you.” And that was the last time I ever talked to him.
So — and at that point, you know, I didn’t think anything was going to come of it, until on, I think it was February 7th, I picked up the newspaper — or online I went to the Manchester Union Leader, and, sure enough, there was an article in there describing how the Manchester Police Department had referred it, the matter, to the Department of Justice. And at that point, seeing how I was being treated by my former client, I knew I was the guy who was going to get fingered and thrown under the bus. And I accepted that paradigm, because that — you know, that’s part of what you do. And I didn’t — I never talked to the press. In fact, it wasn’t until I was released that I ever spoke to the press.
But I did make a conscious decision, which was, I’m not going to talk about this issue, I’m not going to, you know, point fingers at my client or anybody else. However, if the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation ever knocked on my door, the first thing I was going to do was be candid, transparent, and tell them everything that happened, because at that point it wasn’t about politics anymore, it was about — you know, as maybe some of your listeners will understand, it’s about your life and what’s really important.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you weren’t just running this company, GOP Marketplace, as a businessman. You were — you had a number of important positions within the Republican Party. Just going back through them, you ran a successful US House campaign in ’94 for William Martini, a Republican Party politician who represented New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District; subsequently chosen by the former GOP chair, current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, to become one of the regional directors of the Republican National Committee overseeing the Mid-Atlantic states; a position as chief of staff to co-chair of the Republican National Committee that Patricia Harrison followed, who’s now over at Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In 2000, you worked as deputy political director of Steve Forbes’s presidential campaign, and you also served as executive director of the Republican Leadership Council. Then you went off into private business — is that right? — to do this electoral work for Republicans.
My question is, how high up did this go, that issue of the dozens of phone calls made to the White House within the time of the jamming campaign?
ALLEN RAYMOND: Well, let me say, first and foremost, I have no evidence that anyone in the White House or anyone beyond Jim Tobin at the Republican National Committee had any advance awareness or approved this program. Having said that and having worked at the Republican National Committee — and this gets back to why I took on the work — is I know the process.
The Republican National Committee is an organization of professionals. You know, these aren’t hacks. And they — if there’s two things that I learned working there, is one, an unusual program, which this clearly was. You know, it spoke for itself when it was first described to me. Something so unusual doesn’t see the light of day unless it’s been vetted. The other thing that I assessed, which was, when I worked at the RNC in the same capacity, I never really cared too much about who the vendor was, unless I was involved in delivering the money that was going to be used to pay that vendor. So those were two important criteria in my mind at the time.
When Mr. Tobin gives me a call as the agent of the Republican National Committee, you know, what I assess is that, well, he’s calling me as an agent of the RNC, and he must be bringing the money because he has a level of concern of who is going to do the work. And so, you know, that’s an important assessment to make. But again, you know, I have to say, in all fairness — and I’m going to be more fair to them than they were to me — I have no knowledge that this reaches beyond Mr. Tobin at the RNC, and certainly I’ve never seen any evidence that it reaches into the White House.
AMY GOODMAN: Although you write, Allen Raymond, the Bush White House had complete control of the RNC, and there was no way someone like Tobin was going to try what he was proposing without first getting it vetted by his higher-ups.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Right. And that’s what I was saying, which is, while I’ve never seen any evidence, I’ve never seen a phone record, an email, been told of a conversation, I do know — and it’s practical knowledge — that when you have a sitting president, they do control the institution, the Republican National Committee, or if it were a Democratic president, the Democratic National Committee. They do control their affiliated committees, because they’re — it’s in a political arm of the White House. So, yes, there is de facto control, absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Allen Raymond. He wrote How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. You talk about other manipulations of elections, rigging of elections that you were involved with. Talk about New Jersey, and talk about the phone calls that you were having made.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Well, by that, I think you’re referring to, let’s see, the 2000 — I guess it was the 2000 congressional race that you referred to earlier.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
ALLEN RAYMOND: And I think, again, this gets to what I said earlier. You know, the question to ask yourself is why: Why am I getting this phone call? And I’ll go to the one about free trade, using Hispanic or Latin accents. And the point there is to create cross-pressure.
So if you call a Democratic household that you’re fairly certain is — maybe even a union household — opposed to legislation such as, or policies such as NAFTA, the national — the North American Free Trade Agreement, which a union household is going to perceive as a threat to their job, if you make that phone call that says — you know, talking about NAFTA in that accent, you’re going to create cross-pressure, because you’re going to be saying to that household, you know, while — depending on who they support, they may be in conflict, and they may just throw up their hands and say, “You know what? I’m not going to vote. I’m just going to stay home.” Or they may cast a vote that ultimately is not in their best interest. So what you’re doing is you’re —-
Another example might be, you know, if you’re a Republican, calling into what you’ve identified as a Green Party leaning household and encouraging them to vote for the Green Party, because more than likely, that household is going to be a Democratic-voting household if they’re not a Green Party household.
So, essentially, you’re polarizing, you’re dividing, and that’s how you win in politics. I mean, this is a -— as I said earlier, this is not about morality, this is about winning, but winning in a way that you stay on the right side of the law, which, again, as your listeners know, is something I violated and paid a stiff price for. But nonetheless, the idea is, to win, you need 50% plus one, that means half the electorate plus one vote. And sometimes it’s not even a majority, sometimes it’s just a plurality. So this is about polarization. It is about division, and it is about wedge issues.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the phone calls that you were having made in New Jersey, using the voice of, as you put it, "a ghetto black guy" calling households to ask them to vote Democrat.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Yeah, that’s an automated call, and again, the design was to tap into what might be there. I’m not saying, you know, every white household has racial bias, but the intent there is to tap into something that might be latent, something that might be within that household that drives them to, again, either stay home or vote against their best interest on other issues. So, again, this is all about motivation, persuasion. And, you know, it’s powerful stuff.
AMY GOODMAN: I was thinking about Ed Rollins, who according to Wired was named the campaign manager of Mike Huckabee or the national campaign chair of Mike Huckabee. Go back a lot of years, about fifteen years, to when he was boasting as campaign manager for Christine Todd Whitman about spending something like half-a-million dollars for “walking around” money from the state Republican Party to depress the vote in urban, heavily democratic areas, to pay, for example, black ministers not to urge people in their congregations to go out and vote, to suppress the black vote. Now he’s being resuscitated.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Right. I was actually in New Jersey that cycle running the reelection campaign for two assemblymen, Steve Corodemus and Tom Smith, and ironically in this case for me, you know, Tom Smith, who served with great distinction in the Assembly, was African Americans, and I was running the campaign for both gentlemen, and both were outstanding assemblymen, great public servants. And I remember that, and I also remember — and, you know, for the record — that Mr. Rollins later came out and repudiated his statements about this walking around stuff. I think some of that’s bravado.
But I’ll tell you, I mean, you know, my experience in working in New Jersey politics was — you know, now, this goes back a long time, and laws have changed and things don’t operate the way they used to, but there was such thing as walking around money, and it did get spread around. I personally never saw any money delivered to a black minister with the quid pro quo agreement that they were going to urge their congregation, their flock, to stay home, so I can’t speak to that. I do remember it occurring.
And I do remember a lot of people, anyway, Republicans at the time, thinking, you know, one, if it’s true, why are you talking about it? And two, why are you talking about it? You know, what’s to be gained from that? Because it was the election that Governor Whitman won her first term.
So — and now he’s back in play. And, you know, I saw an article about him talking tough about Governor Romney. And, you know, apparently it hasn’t helped Mr. Huckabee’s — Governor Huckabee’s campaign too much in New Hampshire. But, you know, we’re going into South Carolina. It is a dirty, nasty place for politics. It’s a lovely state, obviously, but it’s a nasty place. You’ve already seen mailings into that state accusing or tying Governor Romney to polygamy. And I think you’re going to see more of this stuff. You certainly — there’s a history there. Everyone’s fairly familiar with the events of 2000 involving Mr. McCain — Senator McCain. So, you know, I think it’s going to be — it’s going to get rougher, because that’s the nature of the beast.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re referring to 2000 election, the Bush campaign, George W. Bush, now the president, spreading rumors about John McCain having a black child.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Yes. And it’s never — and again, just for the record, you know, I don’t think it’s ever been tied to the Bush White House, the Bush campaign, but it stands to reason who had the most to gain. So but it is —-
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Allen Raymond, I want to thank you for being with us. You are the great-grandson of the founder of Underwood Typewriter Company. What are you doing today?
ALLEN RAYMOND: You know, after you’ve been through what I’ve been through, you take a lot of time to assess. You know, certainly writing the book took some time. I’m pleased with it, because it’s, I think -— hopefully it’s an opportunity for people to pick up the book, understand more about the process, and kind of open their eyes and understand what’s going on, so they can make informed decisions.
AMY GOODMAN: Allen Raymond, I want to leave it there. I want to thank you very much for being with us. How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. Allen Raymond is the author.
ALLEN RAYMOND: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.