CONCORD, N.H. – The New Hampshire Department of Justice will open an investigation examining complaints of illegal automated telephone calls that allegedly took place within days of the mid-term elections.
New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Jim Kennedy said his office is almost finished with initial queries into whether the National Republican Congressional Committee had placed calls to phone numbers on the federal Do Not Call Registry and that a formal investigation will begin soon.
In addition to the NRCC, Kennedy said his office was also reviewing complaints that the US Chamber of Commerce and the New Hampshire Democratic Party did the same thing.
For the most part, the automated calls targeted voters in the highly competitive Second Congressional District, in the state's western half. In that race, Democrat Paul Hodes defeated six-term Republican incumbent Charlie Bass.
At issue is a conflict of state and federal law. The federal law creating the Do Not Call Registry specifically allows political campaigns and advocacy groups to call numbers on the registry in deference to free speech concerns. The New Hampshire law does not, and those who break it face a fine of up to $5,000 per phone call.
When complaints from those on the Do Not Call Registry first appeared, an NRCC spokesman said the state law did not apply to his national organization. After a conversation with the state Attorney General's office, NRCC staffers stopped making phone calls two days before the election.
The investigation is expected to take several weeks, possibly into 2007. When the investigation is completed, Kennedy said his office will decide whether charges should be pursued.
The controversy about the phone calls received significant news coverage in the final weekend of the campaign.