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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Allen Raymond, Author of “How to Rig an Election”

raymond.jpgI’ve gotta say, the first half of Allen Raymond’s How to Rig an Election is a tough slog. It describes Raymond’s early career as a GOP operative, in which he stopped at nothing to smear his candidates’ opponents.

Yes, I was a dick. That was my job, and I was pretty good at it–and learning every day.

As someone who has helped a challenger beat a well-funded incumbent who used every kind of smear, I simply don’t buy that such tactics are necessary, and the cynicism of it really pissed me off.

That said, the first half of the book includes fascinating descriptions of Raymond’s tenure working under Haley Barbour and Mitch McConnell (apparently, McConnell rarely speaks). And throughout the book, Raymond includes extensive descriptions of the contempt with which neo-cons treated (and still treat, no doubt) north-eastern, socially moderate Republicans.

There was always a palpable sense that we were being held in contempt by our colleagues from the Southern and mountain states. Somehow, you were less of a Republican if you tended toward compromise.

It’s the second-half of the book, though, where Raymond really exposes the cynical underbelly of Republican operations. Raymond was, recall, the telemarketing consultant whom the New Hampshire GOP employed to jam the phones of the Democratic GOTV lines on election day in 2002, helping to get John Sununu elected over Jeanne Shaheen.

Raymond describes how, almost out of the blue, Jim Tobin engaged Raymond’s firm to "disrupt" the six GOTV phone lines of the NH Democratic party. With little more than a phone conference with a former FEC lawyer by way of ethical self-reflection, Raymond took the job. By 8:00 in the morning on election day, the NH GOP started contacting Raymond in a panic, telling him to abort the phone-jamming operation because the Chair had decided it was illegal. But it was too late. Less than a month later, the Manchester, NH police department contacted Raymond about the operation. By the time federal investigators subponeaed Raymond the following summer, he was ready to tell the truth. That made him–alone among the three main people who executed the plan–the person who would flip on the Republicans rather than serve as a firewall. Whereas Raymond paid for his own defense and got pilloried by the GOP as a liar, Jim Tobin, the guy who first proposed the operation to Raymond, enjoyed $3 million in RNC-paid legal defense and remains free. (Kind of reminds you of Scooter Libby, huh?)

After the operation, it dawned on Raymond the GOP had picked him because, as a north-easterner who never joined the Bush team, he was expendable. And as someone anxious to get a chunk of the considerable GOP telemarketing business, Raymond accepted the job, in spite of its dubious legality. This book tells what it was like to be the fall guy for one of the GOP’s smarmy voter suppression operations.

Since Raymond’s book appeared, there have been further revelations about how the first prosecutor on the case–who appears to have realized Raymond was set up to take the fall–was stymied in his efforts to indict Tobin. And how Dick Cheney’s personal lawyer lobbied the DOJ to hold off on indicting Tobin.

Raymond’s book doesn’t get into those details, though he concludes that this thing went much higher than Tobin (and Tobin’s calls to the White House the day of the phone-jamming would seem to support that). He argues the phone-jamming plan came from the RNC and the White House, not from the NH GOP themselves.

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. That’s if Tobin, rather than one of his bosses, had even thought of the ploy himself–which seemed unlikely.

And though Raymond never says so directly, Karl Rove hovers over this story like some creepy maestro.

Standing alone in that soundproof chamber was Karl Rove. It was an impressive sight, that behemoth flailing his arms while barking into a headset, surrounded by a vast blinking array of laptops, desktops, telephones, and monitors (noticeably all of the computer gear was Apple rather than PC). He clearly saw himself as a field general with his all-seeing eyes on every last troop. The effect was something out of James Bond, or the first time you glimpse Darth Vader in his life-support pod, the bald head revealed just before the helmet comes down.

This is a story still being pursued. Waxman’s and Conyers’ committees are still pursuing the story, both in terms of the jamming itself, as well as an exemplar of the politicized Bush DOJ. And, as Raymond describes the RNC’s political director admitting that "I’ve made sure there’s no e-mail traffic on this"–suggesting that this may be part of the larger of the bigger missing email scandal.

Let’s welcome Allen Raymond to FireDogLake.

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