Studio acquires Billy Ray's political drama

Fox Searchlight has acquired “How to Rig an Election,” a fact-based project that Billy Ray wrote and will direct about a GOP operative’s rise and fall through dirty campaign tricks.

Searchlight is eyeing a 2009 production start.

Much the way that the Ray-directed “Shattered Glass” chronicled journo Stephen Glass’ fall from grace for fabricating stories, “How to Rig an Election” traces GOP operative Allen Raymond’s downfall following a campaign to jam phone lines at Democratic Party headquarters in an effort to swing a 2002 Senate election in New Hampshire.

Searchlight has acquired rights to “How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative,” a Raymond memoir published in January by Simon & Schuster.

Mayhem Pictures partners Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray will produce with Generate partners Jared Hoffman and Pete Aronson. Victor Constantino will be exec producer.

After rising through the ranks by using such tricks as calling voters during the Super Bowl to hype a rival candidate, Raymond made his boldest move during a tight New Hampshire race between Democrat Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Rep. John Sununu.

Raymond enlisted a telemarketer vendor to dump so many automated calls into phone banks at Democratic HQ that outgoing calls were impossible. Shaheen lost by about 20,000 votes, and other local candidates lost by less.

The ruse drew federal scrutiny, and Raymond eventually pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in federal court and served three months. His alleged accomplice, a high-ranking Republican campaign operative named Jim Tobin, pleaded not guilty, was convicted and had the verdict overturned. This week, he was indicted again on new charges of making false statements to an FBI agent.

“This is the story of Raymond’s rise to power alongside his friend in the party, Jim Tobin, and how their lives intersect in a way that forces Allen to choose between his ambition and his integrity,” Ray said. “He makes the wrong choice at first, and by the time he makes the right one, his wife and kids are affected and his life is going up in flames.”

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