Excerpts from article By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - A GOP telemarketing firm implicated in two criminal prosecutions involving election dirty tricks got its startup money from Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, financial records show.
Barbour's investment company arranged a quarter-million-dollar loan to GOP Marketplace in 2000 and also gave a promotional plug to the telemarketer several months later, according to Virginia corporation records and other documents.
Barbour, who became Mississippi governor in 2003, gushed over the prospects of GOP Marketplace in a company press release in 2000. He predicted it would be profitable and "give Republicans an edge" by using the Internet to buy and sell telemarketing services.
The loan made Barbour and his Washington business partners part owners of the company, the incorporation papers show.
By 2002, federal court records contend, GOP Marketplace president Allen Raymond and the Alexandria, Va.-based company were carrying out political dirty tricks in New Hampshire and New Jersey.
Raymond, who once worked for Barbour at the Republican National Committee, is serving a three-month prison term after pleading guilty to arranging for hundreds of hang-up calls in New Hampshire in 2002. The calls jammed Democratic phone lines that were offering people assistance in getting to polling stations in a close U.S. Senate race.
In a New Jersey indictment, prosecutors said Raymond and his company were implicated in a separate scheme to make harassing calls to voters, but neither was indicted. Rather, the indictment charged the losing candidate who hired Raymond. Ex-candidate James Treffinger pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and mail fraud.
GOP Marketplace's New Jersey operation preceded the New Hampshire phone jamming and used a different tactic, prosecutors said. Raymond arranged for annoying "attack ad" calls during the 2002 Super Bowl. The ads attacked a Treffinger opponent, but appeared to come from a third candidate. Treffinger served spent 13 months in prison.
In a company news release from Aug. 7, 2000, announcing the agreement, Barbour praised the company's use of the Internet and described his own role.
"I am convinced that GOP Marketplace will not only be a profitable business, but will also give Republicans an edge in the 2000 elections," he said.
"Campaign managers are always battling time constraints, and GOP Marketplace will clearly save campaigns time. As soon as I heard about the idea, I started pulling together the necessary financing."
Delicious. This jam is sweet and tart.