See update below; meeting was in person, not over the phone.
Proclaimed “Tea Party” candidate Scott Ashjian has managed to insinuate himself into the Senate race in Nevada, but this time he may have outsmarted himself. Ashjian admitted that he secretly taped a phone conversation between himself and Republican nominee Sharron Angle while they negotiated a way for him to exit the race, and then leaked the tape to Nevada journalist Jon Ralston. That may put Ashjian at risk of felony prosecution for wiretapping:
Nevada Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian admitted Sunday that he secretly recorded a conversation with Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle, at a meeting in which she asks him to get out of the race, and that he leaked the tape to a journalist.
In a widely reported meeting last week, Angle asked Ashjian to step aside so she could have a clear shot to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but the eccentric minor-party candidate refused to take his name off the ballot.
Veteran Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston published a recording Sunday of their meeting — a tape that showed a wide-ranging discussion between the two candidates, including several less-than-flattering comments from Angle.
In most states, this would just be bad manners. In Nevada, though, it’s a crime. Nevada is one of a handful of states that requires that both parties to a telephone conversation consent to a recording. And failure to comply can be prosecuted as a felony:
Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 200.620: The Nevada wiretapping statute provides that it is a crime for anyone to “intercept” or disclose the contents of any wire communication, but that no illegal activity occurs when the interception is made “with the prior consent of one of the parties to the communication” and “an emergency situation exists.”
In December 1998, the state’s highest court stated in a 3-2 decision that the wiretapping statutes require that an individual obtain the consent of all parties before taping a telephone conversation, and thus, that an individual who tapes his own telephone calls without the consent of all participants unlawfully “intercepts” those calls. Lane v. Allstate Ins. Co., 969 P.2d 938 (Nev. 1998).
In addition, it is a criminal invasion of privacy to secretly listen to, record or disclose the contents of any private conversation “engaged in by other persons” through use of any mechanical or electronic device, “unless authorized to do so by one of the persons engaging in the conversation.” Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 200.650.
Nevada statutory provisions also make it a crime to disclose the existence or contents of any wire or radio communication without permission from the sender or receiver. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 200.630. Violations of the statutes can be punished as felonies and carry civil liability for actual damages, $100 per day of violation or $1,000 — whichever is greater. In civil cases, punitive damages, costs and attorney fees also can be recovered. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 200.690.
Ashjian committed a crime for no real effect anyway. The conversation wasn’t all that interesting, except that Ashjian demanded an apology from the Tea Party Express in exchange for his departure. Angle explained that she couldn’t coordinate anything with TPE, as federal campaign laws prevent it, but that TPE might be approachable after the election. Even that was a lie on Ashjian’s part, the candidate told Politico, as he had no intention of withdrawing.
The entire intent was to commit a dirty trick, and in that Ashjian certainly succeeded. However, he didn’t punk Angle; he may have incriminated himself.
Update: I misread the article; I assumed the conversation took place over the phone. It took place in person, which means that this law obviously does not apply. It’s still bad manners, however. Thanks to Mark S who pointed it out to me. My apologies to readers for my misunderstanding.
Next question: why did Angle agree to meet with him at all?
Update II: Howard Kurtz wonders why Angle took the meeting, too, but also concludes that this episode is a lot more likely to backfire politically on Ashjian:
And while Sharron Angle says some mildly embarrassing things in her conversation with a tea party candidate in Nevada, I’m not sure it hurts her. Why? Because many voters will probably sympathize with her over the surreptitious taping.
Angle says, for example, “The Republicans have lost their standards, they’ve lost their principles. … Really that’s why the machine in the Republican Party is fighting against me. … They have never really gone along with lower taxes and less government.”
And why would she be full of praise for the GOP? The party establishment lined up behind her primary opponent, Sue Lowden. If anything, the leaked remarks will probably help her in the race against Harry Reid among those who are fed up with both parties.
Agreed. People rallied to Angle precisely because they thought that the GOP had lost their way, which is something Angle repeatedly said during the primary against Sue Lowden, the more establishment candidate. It’s akin to offering a breaking news bulletin that water is wet. It does, however, reinforce the notion that Ashjian is a malefactor in this race, and that his candidacy is inspired by petty malice rather than any true desire to serve.