- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

RICHMOND — Key Republican Party figures not only knew that Edmund A. Matricardi III planned to covertly monitor a confidential, high-level Democratic Party conference call, they applauded and encouraged it, Matricardi said yesterday.

In a court proceeding where he publicly discussed his role in the scandal for the first time, Matricardi detailed a scheme that actively involved at least four other influential Republicans, including his former boss and party chairman, Gary R. Thomson.

Mr. Thomson not only knew that Matricardi had secured phone numbers and pass codes for the conference call from a disaffected Democrat, he helped plan the calls and listened in briefly to the first call March 22, 2002, the party’s former executive director said.

Before the second call on Monday, March 25, Matricardi said he briefed then-House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. and his chief of staff, Claudia D. Tucker, on the first call and gave them the phone number and access codes to monitor the second call.



Matricardi described Mr. Thomson and Mr. Wilkins as enthusiastic about the prospect of intercepting Democratic insider information.

“No one at any point was ever hitting the brakes. They were only hitting the gas,” Matricardi said during a hearing in Henrico Circuit Court on his petition to reinstate the law license he forfeited when he pleaded guilty in April to a single felony count.

Indeed, Mr. Thomson, Mr. Wilkins and Mrs. Tucker were delighted by Matricardi’s espionage, Matricardi said.

“They were very complimentary of me. The speaker told me, ‘I like the way you work,’” Matricardi said.

“This is disgusting, just disgusting,” Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Lawrence Framme III said. “It shows a total lack of ethics through the highest levels of the Republican Party of Virginia. It confirms what I long suspected but hoped against hope was not true: This scandal permeated every nook and cranny of the state Republican leadership.”

Mr. Thomson gave the go-ahead to listen — at one point discussing with Matricardi how he would respond to various telephone security measures the Democrats might use to limit access to the call, Matricardi said.

Anne Petera, the director of administration for Republican Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, got a full briefing about the first conference call around 6:30 p.m., moments after the call ended, Matricardi testified.

Mr. Thomson declined to comment.

Mr. Wilkins, in a telephone interview, said he never supported Matricardi’s intercepts and said he never received or even saw notes Matricardi made of the first call.

“He didn’t show me any notes. We turned them down because we didn’t want them,” Mr. Wilkins said.

Miss Petera said she told Matricardi from the first time they spoke that what he had done was wrong, and that she informed Bernie McNamee, Mr. Kilgore’s chief of staff, the next morning.

“The first thing I told Ed was, ‘You can’t do that,’” she said.

Matricardi was sentenced in July to three years’ probation. His law license was suspended, and the Virginia State Bar sought to have it revoked indefinitely. A three-judge panel yesterday imposed a two-year suspension ending April 2005.

Mr. Thomson pleaded guilty last month to a single misdemeanor count of aiding and abetting the scheme and resigned as party chairman.

Mrs. Tucker pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in January. Reached by telephone yesterday, she declined to comment on Matricardi’s testimony.

Miss Petera has never been targeted by investigators.

Matricardi said the opportunity to listen to the Democrats discuss their plans for battling the Republican-led 2001 legislative and congressional redistricting came unexpectedly when former state Democratic Party employee Jacquelyn Daniel called him a few hours before the Friday conference call.

Miss Daniel, who is black, said that a number of black Democratic legislators were unhappy that their party’s caucus planned to attack the redistricting plan that gave the Republicans a larger House majority but also gave black legislators districts with larger black majorities, he said.

Matricardi said that when he asked Miss Daniel why she wanted Republicans to monitor the call, “she said, ‘Because what they are doing is wrong, and you all need to know about it and expose it.’”

He said he told Mr. Thomson of Miss Daniel’s offer, and they both figured Miss Daniel was acting at the instruction of black Democratic legislators, and as such they were “bona fide invitees to this call.”

There were no security measures, so all Matricardi had to do is punch in his pass code and listen anonymously.

Aside from “just a little juicy gossip,” neither call yielded much useful information, Matricardi said.

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