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GOP to pay $135,000 to settle phone case

Both sides claim victory in civil suit

CONCORD, N.H. -- The phone bill ended up being $135,000 for a Republican scheme that jammed Democratic get-out-the-vote calls in New Hampshire on Election Day 2002.

Both sides are claiming victory. The Democrats say the Republicans paid three times: in Friday's cash settlement to end a Democratic lawsuit, in defending the charges, and last month at the polls.

Republicans say they are paying a fraction of the $4.1 million the Democrats were seeking.

The Republicans maintained they should only have had to pay about $4,000, the cost to rent and use the phones.

State Republican Chairman Wayne Semprini said the GOP agreed to pay to avoid the expense of going to trial.

"Although we believed our case was very strong, the cost of the trial as well as expected appeals by the New Hampshire Democratic Party would have easily matched or exceeded the present value of the settlement," he said.

And Semprini said it was time to refocus the party.

"For too long, this case has distracted members of our party and the public at large from the real issues that affect real people in New Hampshire."

Kathy Sullivan, New Hampshire's Democratic chairwoman, said the GOP has suffered by having to pay to defend itself in the jamming case, as well as at the polls last month.

"The most important thing is that on Nov. 7, the voters of New Hampshire imposed the most significant damage that could be imposed on the Republican Party," by allowing Democrats to keep the governor's office and take over the state Senate, House, Executive Council, and both seats in the US House of Representatives .

The settlement, announced Friday, ends the civil lawsuit, three days before the case was to go to trial.

But criminal proceedings continue.

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