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.
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.
“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 firefighters’ union 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.