Out of a Jam and Back Into the Jelly

Big-name Republicans such as Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, are visiting California to boost Brian P. Bilbray, center, who is seeking the seat vacated by Randy
Big-name Republicans such as Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, are visiting California to boost Brian P. Bilbray, center, who is seeking the seat vacated by Randy "Duke" Cunningham. (By Chris Park -- Associated Press)
By David A. Fahrenthold and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Sunday, May 28, 2006

A major figure in the Election Day phone-jamming scandal that embarrassed and nearly bankrupted the New Hampshire GOP is out of prison and back in the political game.

Charles McGee, the former executive director of the state Republican Party, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and served seven months for his part in the scheme to have a telemarketer to tie up Democratic and union phone lines in 2002.

He's back at his old job with a Republican political marketing firm, Spectrum Monthly & Printing Inc., and will be helping out at the firm's "GOP campaign school" for candidates.

Richard Pease, the firm's co-president, said that McGee would be available to advise candidates at the two-day event, planned for next weekend in Manchester, N.H. McGee's role at the school was reported Thursday by the New Hampshire Union Leader.

"Chuck will work with the candidates in any way they want," Pease said. "If they want his advice, if they want his . . . experience, it's there for them to take or leave."

Pease said he had no problem with McGee, who is a vice president in the firm, returning to advise politicians. "He made a mistake. He admitted to it. He served his time," Pease said.

"He's certainly not going to be standing there and advocating breaking the law," Pease said. He said McGee declined to comment about his role at the school.

In court, McGee acknowledged that the phone-jamming of get-out-the-vote drives by Democrats and organized labor was his idea, inspired by a lesson he learned in the Marine Corps: cut off your opponent's communications. The calls had the desired effect for two hours the morning of Election Day, but then the scheme began to unravel. Two other people have been sentenced to prison in the phone jamming.

The news of McGee's role in the campaign school was seized on by Democrats, who have charged that Republicans in New Hampshire and Washington have not done enough to repudiate the jamming scheme's authors. Christy Setzer, a spokeswoman for a Democratic group called the Senate Majority Project, said Spectrum's clients include many of New Hampshire's most prominent Republicans.

"The very fact that they continue to associate with him and give him their money . . . speaks volumes," she said.

In response, Andy Leach, the executive director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, said his group has nothing to do with the campaign school.

"We're not encouraging anyone to attend," said Leach, who said he was speaking on behalf of state GOP Chairman Wayne Semprini. The party will be running its own campaign school later in the year, he said.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company