28 April 2006

Mississippi governor helped implicated firm

GOP Marketplace allegedly involved in political dirty tricks

MSNBC - April 28, 2006

WASHINGTON - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican Party chairman, arranged the startup financing for a GOP telemarketing company implicated in two criminal cases involving election dirty tricks.

Virginia corporation records show Barbour's investment company arranged a quarter-million dollar loan to GOP Marketplace in 2000 and also gave a promotional plug to the telemarketer several months later.

A spokesman for the governor said Barbour had no idea the company would engage in criminal activity two years later. The lawyer for the now-defunct company's convicted president said Barbour was not consulted about its operations.

[...] Barbour, who became Mississippi governor in 2003, gushed over the prospects of GOP Marketplace in a company press release in 2000. He predicted it would be profitable and "give Republicans an edge" by using the Internet to buy and sell telemarketing services.

[...] By 2002, according to federal court records, GOP Marketplace president Allen Raymond and the Alexandria, Va.-based company were carrying out political dirty tricks in New Hampshire and New Jersey.

Raymond, who once worked for Barbour at the Republican National Committee, is serving a three-month prison term after pleading guilty to arranging for hundreds of hang-up calls in New Hampshire in 2002. The calls jammed Democratic phone lines that were offering assistance in getting to polling stations in a close U.S. Senate race.

In a New Jersey indictment, prosecutors implicated Raymond and his company in a separate scheme to make harassing calls to voters but did not charge either with crimes. Rather, the indictment charged the losing candidate who hired Raymond. Ex-candidate James Treffinger pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and mail fraud.

GOP Marketplace's New Jersey operation preceded the New Hampshire phone jamming and used a different tactic, prosecutors said. Raymond arranged for annoying "attack ad" calls during the 2002 Super Bowl. The ads attacked a Treffinger opponent, but appeared to come from a third candidate. Treffinger served spent 13 months in prison.
[...] Barbour is the latest prominent Republican to be connected to Raymond and GOP Marketplace.

President Bush's former campaign chairman for New England has been convicted in the New Hampshire case and The Associated Press reported April 10 that key figures in the phone jamming had regular contact with the White House _ and Republican officials _ as the scheme unfolded.

[...] The White House political office, recipient of most of calls, was run in 2002 by the current Republican national chairman, Ken Mehlman. He denies any calls were related to the jamming, contending the discussions focused only on the close election won by John Sununu, R-N.H.


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