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N.H. judge delays ruling on motions in suit vs. GOP

Democrats seek phone-jam data

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A judge has delayed decisions on several new motions in an election-related lawsuit that state Democrats have filed against Republicans, effectively pushing off key rulings until after Nov. 2.

Lawyers for the two political parties argued in court Friday for the third time in as many weeks over exactly what kind of information Democrats could receive as they investigate the Republican Election Day 2002 jamming of get-out-the-vote telephone lines.

''We believe we are entitled to the full facts, not the ones we're able to sweep out after having three or four hearings before you," Democratic Party lawyer Steven Gordon told Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Philip Mangones.

The state Democratic Party and a nonpartisan group set up phone lines for voters who needed help getting to polling places in 2002. Hundreds of calls, placed at the direction of a telemarketing firm hired by the state Republican Party, jammed the lines for about 1 hours.

Democrats are suing as a federal criminal investigation of the jamming continues. Mangones issued two rulings this month clearing the way for both investigations to occur simultaneously.

The second ruling, handed down Oct. 22, put fresh restrictions on Democrats. It required their civil investigation to continue largely in secret and limited the party to 20 written questions or document requests.

The modifications were made after federal prosecutor Todd Hinnen argued that information disclosed through the lawsuit could make public material presented to a grand jury. Grand jury proceedings normally are secret.

Gordon argued Friday that Republicans had not answered the Democrats' questions fully enough and that the GOP refused to turn over some documents the court order required. He focused on gaining access to a Republican internal investigative file about the jamming, demanding to see it after the hearing.

He said some documents Republicans provided referred to others that weren't submitted. He also told Mangones at least one photocopy of a check was illegible.

Democratic Party lawyer Finis Williams had said that the GOP's strategy had been to delay the case and force such a situation.

''The action by the Republican Party -- through their attorney, Ovide Lamontagne -- is an attempt to delay production of who knew about the phone-jamming scheme until after the election," he said after the morning hearing.

Lamontagne argued that Democrats were making the charges purely for publicity. He has called this month's flurry of court filings harassment and ''slick lawyering." He has repeatedly asked Mangones for more time to respond to Democratic motions.

''There have been a lot of wild and, I would suggest, irresponsible representations made during the proceedings," he said.

The GOP, he added, has already offered to give Democrats assurances that no phone jamming would occur Nov. 2.

''The proof is in the pudding," said Kathy Sullivan, state Democratic Party chairwoman.

The GOP, in responding to Democrats, had said that three people had prior knowledge of the phone jamming. The list named former state GOP director Chuck McGee, former state GOP chairman John Dowd, and Allen Raymond, former president of GOP Marketplace in Alexandria, Va. All three have been known to be involved for months.

Dowd has said that while he knew about the jamming, he ordered it stopped before it was to occur.

McGee and Raymond pleaded guilty in federal court this summer to jamming-related criminal charges, but have not yet been sentenced. At their plea hearings, they acknowledged speaking to an unidentified national political official about the jamming.

Democrats have said they believe that James Tobin, President Bush's former New England campaign chairman, was the official and might have put McGee and Raymond together. Tobin stepped down two weeks ago after the charges were made public, but denied any involvement.

Gordon told Mangones the phrasing of one GOP response suggested that it knew of more people who were involved early, but didn't provide the names.

Gordon also said the internal GOP investigative file would have the details, but Lamontagne said the material was protected by attorney-client privilege. The two clashed in court over whether the latest court order required Republicans to let the judge make that determination or whether Republicans were able to do so themselves.

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