A man with computer and mobile phone
A man with computer and mobile phone

We are learn­ing more about why the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty had such a rough time on Mon­day try­ing to col­lect reports from its precinct cau­cus lead­ers. It turns out there was an attempt by Trump’s fol­low­ers to sab­o­tage the tele­phon­ic back­up report­ing mech­a­nism that the par­ty had planned on using in case of prob­lems with its mobile app — prob­lems which have already been wide­ly reported.

Via Bloomberg:

Sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump flood­ed a hot­line used by Iowa precinct chairs to report Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus results after the tele­phone num­ber was post­ed online, wors­en­ing delays in the statewide tal­ly, a top state Demo­c­rat told par­ty lead­ers on a con­fer­ence call Wednes­day night.

Accord­ing to two par­tic­i­pants on the call, Ken Sagar, a state Demo­c­ra­t­ic cen­tral com­mit­tee mem­ber, was among those answer­ing the hot­line on cau­cus night and said peo­ple called in and expressed sup­port for Trump. The phone num­ber became pub­lic after peo­ple post­ed pho­tos of cau­cus paper­work that includ­ed the hot­line num­ber, one of the peo­ple on the call said.

The phone call Wednes­day night between the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty staff and state cen­tral com­mit­tee, the party’s elect­ed gov­ern­ing body, came as the par­ty was still count­ing results.

State par­ty staff con­firmed Sagar’s account:

“On Cau­cus Day, the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty expe­ri­enced an unusu­al­ly high vol­ume of inbound phone calls to its cau­cus hot­line, includ­ing sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Trump,” Mandy McClure, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for the par­ty, said in a state­ment to the Des Moines Reg­is­ter. “The unex­plained, and at times hos­tile, calls con­tributed to the delay in the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s col­lec­tion of results, but in no way affect­ed the integri­ty of infor­ma­tion gath­ered or the accu­ra­cy of data sets reported.”

This reminds me of the New Hamp­shire phone jam­ming scan­dal, which took place a lit­tle more than sev­en­teen years ago. If you’re not famil­iar with that infa­mous Repub­li­can dirty trick, here’s the low­down from Wikipedia:

The 2002 New Hamp­shire Sen­ate elec­tion phone jam­ming scan­dal involved the use of a tele­mar­ket­ing firm hired by that state’s Repub­li­can Par­ty (NHGOP) for elec­tion tam­per­ing. The tam­per­ing involved using a call cen­ter to jam the phone lines of a get out the vote (GOTV) oper­a­tion. In the end, 900 calls were made for 45 min­utes of dis­rup­tion to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing call centers.

Dur­ing that state’s 2002 elec­tion for the Unit­ed States Sen­ate seat being vacat­ed by Repub­li­can Bob Smith, the NHGOP hired GOP Mar­ket­place, based in north­ern Vir­ginia, to jam anoth­er phone bank being used by the state Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and the fire­fight­ersunion for efforts to turn out vot­ers on behalf of then-Gov­er­nor of New Hamp­shire Jeanne Sha­heen on Elec­tion Day.

John E. Sununu, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, won a nar­row vic­to­ry. In addi­tion to crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions, dis­clo­sures in the case have come from a civ­il suit filed by the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty against the state’s Repub­li­can Par­ty (now settled).

Four men were con­vict­ed of, or plead­ed guilty to, fed­er­al crimes and sen­tenced to prison for their involvement.

One con­vic­tion was reversed by an appeals court, a deci­sion pros­e­cu­tors are appeal­ing. James Tobin, freed on appeal, was lat­er indict­ed on charges of lying to the FBI dur­ing the orig­i­nal investigation.

Sha­heen lat­er became one of New Hamp­shire’s two Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors. The New Hamp­shire Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty sued the New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can Par­ty for dam­ages. In Decem­ber of 2006, the New Hamp­shire Repub­li­cans agreed to pay $125,000 in five annu­al install­ments to the New Hamp­shire Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty… one of the few cas­es I know of one major polit­i­cal par­ty trans­fer­ring funds to the other.

It is dis­turb­ing but not sur­pris­ing that Trump’s rabid fol­low­ers active­ly sought to inter­fere in the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus­es and pre­vent the par­ty from being able to receive time­ly results from its precinct leaders.

Any­one who encour­aged this behav­ior in online forums ought to be inves­ti­gat­ed and pros­e­cut­ed if any laws were deter­mined to have been broken.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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