Sunday, May 21, 2006

Former Tennessee GOP Chair Tommy Hopper Linked To Illegal GOP Phone Scam?

Here's a Tennessee political trivia question for you - name the controversial former Tennessee Republican Party executive director who went on to serve as the controversial chair of the Tennessee GOP during the 1992 election cycle.
The answer - Tommy Hopper.
Back in those days political junkies couldn't pick up a newspaper anywhere in the state without being subjected to Hopper's spin to the right and his tough talk on Democrats who dared challenge Republicans at any level.
So you'd think since the Tennessee political media couldn't get enough of Hopper back then, they'd be all over the latest stories circulating in Washington about Hopper - specifically his involvement as co-founder of a company that's been part of an investigation into illegal phone-jamming tactics used against Democrats in New Hampshire during the 2002 elections.
According to reports, it seems Hopper, who currently advises GOP candidates as President of a firm called "Margin Of Victory Partners" based in Jackson, Tennessee, went into business with Haley Barbour, the current Governor of Mississippi, Edward Mathias, the managing director of The Carlyle Group, and other powerful GOP interests, to launch a venture called GOP Marketplace. In 2000 GOP Marketplace rolled out a service called the Republican Teleservice Exchange.
Word is that just last week (May 17th), the former Republican National Committee (RNC) and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) political director James Tobin was sentenced to 10 months in prison, 2 years probation and a $10,000 fine for his role in jamming Democratic Get-Out-The-Vote phone lines on the 2002 Election Day in New Hampshire. It seems that the New Hampshire Republican State Committee hired GOP Marketplace back then to jam the phone lines.
Furthermore, it's been reported that NRSC has to date spent more than $3 million in legal fees to get Tobin off the hook.
Ironically, current NRSC head Ken Mehlman, who came to Tennessee recently to question Democratic candidates' ethics and values, has had little to say about why the NRSC has continued to try to use legal resources to protect Tobin and defend the work of GOP Marketplace, except to say that the decision to spend the $$ on legal fees was made before he took over.
What's not been reported is what fate awaits the others involved in GOP Marketplace; Tommy Hopper in particular. Perhaps the issue will go no further, and those investigating have been satisfied with Tobin's conviction.
Unfortunately, since none of the Tennessee political media I follow has bothered to cover any aspect this unfolding story (correct me if I wrong here friends), junkies like me have been left to forage the web for tidbits of information circulating on this.
I wonder how many GOP candidates currently use or have recently used Hopper's services through GOP Marketplace (if it even exists today?) or Margin Of Victory Partners? If there are any in Tennessee (a scan of current financial disclosures should reveal this), did any work include phone tactics? And if so, what kind of tactics?
Also, I'm curious as to whether any of this will impact Hopper's reported high level national security clearance he obtained back in 2002 for providing pro bono consultation to the U.S. Marshals Service (I honestly couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!!).
I don't know about you, but all this leaves me hungry for more information.