July 6, 2007

The Pending Mudslinging (Update: Show Me The Money!)

It's easy to tell when a candidate has the potential to do well in a campaign -- the opposition starts throwing mud as early as possible. This appears to be doubly true with Fred Thompson, as the Los Angeles Times will shortly publish a new story about a purported client of Fred's when he worked as a lawyer and lobbyist. The American Spectator steals the Times' thunder:

The Washington Prowler column has learned that the Los Angeles Times intends to publish a story that would attempt to link former Sen. Fred Thompson to a Washington-based, pro-abortion organization. Thompson, through a spokesman, is said to go on the record in the story as having no recollection of ever doing work for the organization in question during a period in 1991 when the first Bush administration was in power.

During that time, Thompson, was "of counsel" at the Arent Fox law firm in Washington, D.C. (meaning he was not a partner, but was provided an office for his use, in part because Thompson's own practice was based in Nashville, TN), and was used by the firm's partners as a "draw" for clients and potential clients, according to a source at the firm familiar with the arrangements with Thompson and others with the "of counsel" designation. ...

In the story that the L.A. Times will report out within the next 24 to 48 hours, the paper will claim that Thompson was "hired" by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Rights Association, whose director, Judith DeSarno, was acquainted with a then-partner at Arent Fox, former Congressman Michael Barnes. In fact, DeSarno worked as a senior aide to Barnes during his time in Congress. According to Arent Fox insiders, Barnes, who now directs the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and DeSarno are both well-known left-wing activists. Most recently, both were active against the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Thompson was an adviser to Roberts, and served as his Senate "sherpa" during the confirmation process.

If the Times and its sources want to launch attacks on Thompson, they'll have to do better than this. Lawyers represent clients, and sometimes they do so for ideological support -- but most of them do it to earn a living. Even if Fred had done work for NFPRR, his political position on abortion has been rather clear. According to Project Vote Smart, Fred got solid zeroes from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, while the National Right to Life Committee have Fred a 77% rating.

Besides, one has to question where this information got sourced. The law firm, Arent Fox, hardly qualifies as a conservative bastion in the legal community. They contributed over $12,000 to Hillary Clinton's exploratory committee. Their employees appear to heavily favor Democrats so far in this cycle as well, with at least three attorneys at the firm donating the maximum to Hillary already.

News flash to the Times: attorneys represent clients. It doesn't have a great deal to do with their political positions, if in fact Fred ever did any work for NFPRR at all. His voting record on abortion has enough clarity to make this innuendo appear a non-starter. We'll keep a close eye out for the article to check its sourcing, but I already suspect that it will primarily be "sources close to the firm" who prefer to remain anonymous.

UPDATE: I have sources, too. One of them insists that Fred never did any formal work for NFPRR and never represented them. He did a lot of meet-and-greets for Arent to help them boost their client list, and it's possible that he met and spoke with people from NFPRR, but that's as far as it went.

UPDATE II: Here's the story; it looks like the LAT put it out on the Internet after the story got attention in the blogosphere. The sourcing for the Times is the NFPRR, specifically one of its members and a Democratic Congressman -- who naturally might have some animus to a Fred presidency:

Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family planning association in 1991, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months.

Minutes from the board's meeting of Sept. 14, 1991 — a copy of which DeSarno gave to The Times — say: "Judy [DeSarno] reported that the association had hired Fred Thompson Esq. as counsel to aid us in discussions with the administration" on the abortion-counseling rule.

Former Rep. Michael D. Barnes of Maryland, a colleague at the lobbying and law firm where Thompson worked, said DeSarno had asked him to recommend someone for the lobbying work, and that he had suggested that she hire Thompson. He said it was "absolutely bizarre" for Thompson to deny that he lobbied against the abortion counseling rule.

In the same story:

Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo adamantly denied that Thompson worked for the family planning group. "Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period," he said in an e-mail.

In a telephone interview, he added: "There's no documents to prove it, there's no billing records, and Thompson says he has no recollection of it, says it didn't happen." In a separate interview, John E. Sununu, the White House official whom the family planning group wanted to contact, said he had no memory of the lobbying and doubted it took place.

So they hired Thompson to lobby John Sununu, and claim he worked for them for "several months," and that they were satisfied with his work in representing their interests to a pro-life administration. Further into the article, Sununu gets categorical:

Sununu said in a telephone interview: "I don't recall him ever lobbying me on that at all. I don't think that ever happened. In fact, I know that never happened." He added that he had "absolutely no idea" whether Thompson had met with anybody else at the White House, but said it would have been a waste of time, given the president's opposition to abortion rights.

In response to Sununu's denial, DeSarno said Thompson "owes [the family planning association] a bunch of money" if he never talked to Sununu, as he said he had.

Well, fine. Ask for a refund. In fact, let's see the billing records for Thompson's work on behalf of the NFPRR. If the NFPRR can't produce them, then I'd call this story bogus, and Barnes and DiSarno mudslingers.


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» Preempting the next attack on Fred from
The hits keep on coming. The next one is apparently going to be an LA Times story in the next few days about how Thompson supposedly did legal work for a pro-abortion group in the early 90s. The American Spectator has the scoop: The Washington Prowle... [Read More]

» Fred Thompson Hired by Pro Abortion Group from Outside The Beltway | OTB
The big news overnight is the claim by a pro abortion group that it hired Fred Thompson to lobby the first President Bush to soften his stance on a gag rule. Michael Finnegan broke the story for the LAT (although not before being scooped by The America... [Read More]

» Controversy: Fred Thompson was once hired as a lobbyist for a pro-abortion group from Sister Toldjah
James Joyner has a definitive recap and link round-up at this LATimes-breaking story about Thompson’s ties to a pro-abortion group under the first President Bush’s administration. The blogosophere is going wild with this story. Here is a s... [Read More]

» Fred Thompson's Abortive Candidacy from bustardblog
The L.A. Times reported on Fred Thompson's lobbying for a pro-abortion group in 1991. The response from the right is predictably bizarre. The most surprising reaction is the absolute denial by Thompson's campaign. They say it simply did not happen. [Read More]

Comments (49)

Posted by Jamesg | July 6, 2007 6:28 PM

Lawyers "of counsel" are either figure heads/drawing cards like Thompson or retired partners given an office out of courtesy.

They are not actively involved in running the firm.

His claim not to be aware of a client is entirely believable.

Posted by Rich Horton | July 6, 2007 6:30 PM

Maybe next week they will "break" the story of how the ACLU "supports" the KKK and neo-Nazi's.

They sure are desperate aren't they.

Posted by TW | July 6, 2007 6:40 PM

Never heard this one, but there's also the allegation that Thompson leaked info from the congressional Watergate investigation to Nixon while the investigation was ongoing. Given what just went down with Libby, that's the more important dirt.

When the spam filters here stop blocking posts with links, I'll provide relevant links.

Posted by Jenkins | July 6, 2007 6:49 PM

Thompson did a lot of meeting and greeting as a corporate lobbyist, I'm sure.

Posted by Adjoran | July 6, 2007 7:07 PM

I'm holding my breath waiting for their exposé on Hillary Rodham's early work on behalf of a Black Panther murderer - which of course "proves" she is aligned with radicals, communists, and criminals.

On second thought, maybe I won't . . .

Posted by capitano | July 6, 2007 7:31 PM

Fred should respond to the LATimes by putting out a You Tube video similar to the Michael Moore smackdown ("Mental Institutions, Michael. Think about it."). He could limit his response to three words, delivered while holding his big cigar:

Puh. Thet. Ic.

Or if he's too busy, he could have the Budweiser frogs make the video.

Posted by SC Sox Fan | July 6, 2007 7:58 PM

The source for the article is DiSarno, the former head of the NFPRR, and Barnes. Thompson flatly denied ever working for the group and Sununu flatly denied ever being lobbied on abortion by Thompson. The one thing I found interesting is that the head of the Arent Fox firm declined to comment for the article. If a Democratic law firm had solid information on a GOP candidate for President, do you think it would refrain from commenting? I suspect that there ARE NO records of any kind that Thompson did any work for the NFPRR. I suspect that the Democrats are even more afraid of Thompson that I had originally thought.

Posted by lexhamfox | July 6, 2007 8:18 PM

I would seriously doubt that this story will do any harm to Fred's campaign or his pro-life credentials. It remains to be seen if the LA Times will even publish this story. It's kind of a non-story about a non-story.

Posted by John_Gault | July 6, 2007 8:20 PM

But you don't understand .... He worked AT (as opposed to in) a law frim, and somebody's sister at the firm knows somebody whos Aunt's third cousin actually had an abortion.

See... a direct abortion link to Thompson.

Posted by Drew | July 6, 2007 9:25 PM

Who would have thought? The LAT twists facts to create a lie? This just can't be. I know the LAT, and they are an honorable paper.

Posted by Bill Faith | July 6, 2007 10:06 PM

Since no one likes lawyers let's just bar everyone with a law degree from holding public office. That takes care of FDT, and Edwards, and Obama, and Billary, and .... On second thought let's just go ahead and elect FDT. I excerpted and linked.

Posted by AT | July 6, 2007 10:14 PM

Fred should respond to the LATimes by putting out a You Tube video similar to the Michael Moore smackdown ("Mental Institutions, Michael. Think about it."). He could limit his response to three words, delivered while holding his big cigar:

Puh. Thet. Ic.

I recommend that he appear on camera reading a list of the clients he represented while he worked at Arent Fox, then say they got him, he was involved in a conspiracy with all of them combined.

Posted by Steve J. | July 6, 2007 10:24 PM

Why is it a "smear"?

Posted by Aloysius | July 6, 2007 10:45 PM

Someone needs to start a Wiki that has entries for particular journalists, lawyers, politicians and bureacrats that collects idiocies, lies, and subterfuges by the name of the liar, confabulator, prevaricator, backstabber etc. and is fully referenceable for all time.

Perhaps this is a project for Pajamas Media.

Some of these morons behave badly because they think they can get away with it but we need a way twenty years hence to call them out and make them responsible for their lies.

Posted by Fight4TheRight | July 6, 2007 11:40 PM

I find it ironic that Judy DeSarno is President of an organization that encourages and supports the murder of children, yet she includes the word "Family" in the name of that organization.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 6, 2007 11:50 PM

Nobody reads the Los Angeles Times. Besides it's busy reporting how the Mayor, Villagros-sa, is kanoodling some reporter gal who has big tits. Following news like that, it's hard to see why Fred would need to be concerned.

As a matter of fact, I think he's been quoted as saying, the "last time an opponent did that, he trailed behind Fred by 20-points."

Why assume that the DC crowd's got their fingers on America's pulse? Up at InstsPundit, a recent poll said the popularity in Congress rests at about 14%. That's quite low, ya know?

Oh, and this time around, the Internet has a lot more range, and power. You've seen new faces emerging from the old media muck? I haven't.

Besides, what we really need to prepare for is Hillary or Obama; or both of them, together, on the Bonkey ticket. Are they hoping you won't notice?

Posted by The Yell | July 7, 2007 2:28 AM

I guess the next step is showing the financial records of NFPRR showing the payments to Thompson for the lobbying. Right?

I'm also skeptical John Sunnunu referred to the Bush Administration position as "opposition to abortion rights". Though I totally believe the LAT would like to characterize it that way.

Posted by Bill Faith | July 7, 2007 2:45 AM

Not that it adds any credibility to the story but the New York Times is carrying it also. Guest they probably got the same email from the Clintonistas.

Posted by Rose | July 7, 2007 2:58 AM

The hatred of the DIMS for Fred isn't going to endear him to ME.

I am slightly puzzled by the Clinton's failure to love him to death for being a FORMER PROSECUTOR who was one of only 4 GOP Senators to vote Bill Clinton NOT GUILTY of PERJURY, and as a former Watergate prosecutor, giving Clinton some "validation" and cover of "legitimacy" for his "vindication" by the Senate.

Since the Judiciary remains a top concern to me, I'm so not amused by Fred declaring that Bill's perjury is a "TRIVIAL MATTER" as recently as June of '07 to Sean Hannity.

NOTHING could entice me to vote for that creature.

I say to the moderates endorsing him "SHOW ME THE DIFFERENCE"

Posted by kindaskeptical | July 7, 2007 4:04 AM

Gosh darn these Republicans and their bad memories. Just when you think things are going to get interesting, they just can't remember. So frustrating for a citizen.

Say, Ed, isn't 77% a C+? Sort of like Bush at Yale? You still pass, I guess.

Posted by Jay Tea | July 7, 2007 4:24 AM

Captain, the story you quoted has made a very slight -- but very significant -- correction in a portion you quoted.

The former White House official is John H. Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and George H. W. Bush's one-time Chief of Staff.

John E. Sununu is his son, former Congressman and current Senator from New Hampshire -- and considerably less arrogant and abrasive than his father.


Posted by swabjockey05 | July 7, 2007 5:02 AM

...and if the LAT does come up with some documents...what are the chances they’d be fake but "accurate"?

Adjoran said:

"I'm holding my breath waiting for their exposé on Hillary Rodham's early work on behalf of a Black Panther murderer - which of course "proves" she is aligned with radicals, communists, and criminals."

Apples to Oranges. Hildabeast would actually GAIN points with the lunatic left with stories like that...murderers, radicals, communists and criminals usually vote for the Dhimmicrats.

But Fred would LOSE points with his base...which opposes abortion.

Posted by The Yell | July 7, 2007 5:42 AM

"Judy [DeSarno] reported that the association had hired Fred Thompson Esq. as counsel to aid us in discussions with the administration" on the abortion-counseling rule. "

Currently there is a distinction between acting as a lobbyist and providing legal advice, as demonstrated by the following:

"Prior to forming The Suffolk Group, Steve [Goldblatt] served as a lobbyist and counsel for a large Boston firm and in Washington, D.C...Steve provided strategic advice to legislators across the country in developing, introducing, and guiding to enactment innovative legislative policy.

...In addition to legislative lobbying, Mr. Godin provides regulatory counsel to clients before various state agencies. Mr. Godin’s practice includes the representation of many of the nation’s largest insurers before the Division of Insurance. Jason provides counsel to insurers with regards to rate and form filings, enforcement actions, and administrative rate hearings, including having successfully represented a Medicare Supplement carrier in obtaining the largest rate increase in Massachusetts history."


I don't know if that was a distinction back in 1991, but it sounds like Mr. Thompson could have fulfilled his job as "counsel" by talking only to NFPRR about the law. That would be consistent with the NFPRR minutes and with John Sunnunu's recollection that Thompson did not advocate the NFPRR with him.

Posted by crossdotcurve | July 7, 2007 7:20 AM

Are there *any* principled Republican presidential candidates?

It would seem there aren't.

Just another GOP hypocrite. Pathetic.

Posted by martin | July 7, 2007 7:27 AM

Good thought on finding the billing records, Captain. Hint: check out the table in the WH living quarters, where Hillary's were finally found.

Posted by syn | July 7, 2007 8:00 AM

As a former member of the sisterhood I now distrust any feminist organization as in, nfprr, pp, naral which supports a rapist and notorious male chauvanist pig.

Posted by MarkT | July 7, 2007 8:03 AM

I too find the ACLU analogy apt:

- The ACLU works for basic principles without regard for the palatability of the client.

- Fred Thompson worked for money for a client he disagrees with.

Neither of these are a big deal to me (on the left) .

Here's a quote from the Captain earlier this year - it feels a bit like a double standard, but I would be happy to have someone explain to me how it is not:

"The ACLU has determined that they can get a lot of publicity for their flacking on behalf of Nazis, and have climbed into bed with racists as a result....Indiana Jones once said, 'I hate these guys.' In this context, it would be difficult to determine which group he would have meant."

Posted by PersonFromPorlock | July 7, 2007 8:04 AM

Steve J.:

Why is it a "smear"?

It's kind of a double smear, although I doubt it was intended to be. First, it 'smears' Thompson to pro-life conservatives by implying he was pro-choice. But it also smears him by claiming that he charged NFPRR for services he didn't deliver (according both to himself and Sununu). That second smear is probably actionable and likely to be vastly entertaining.

Posted by PersonFromPorlock | July 7, 2007 8:13 AM

Sorry, premature post:

But it also smears him by claiming that he charged NFPRR...

Would be better as:

But it also smears him by making inevitable the inference that he charged NFPRR....

Posted by swabjockey05 | July 7, 2007 8:27 AM

Very few on either the left or right would deny that Hildabeast would do almost anything, short of murder, to get elected. She has absolutely NO PRINCIPALS.

Now, with an accusation by a bunch of hypocrite shysters, we have moonbats chanting and drooling: “Look, another Republican with no principals”. “Proving” that you can’t deny a vote for their “principal-challenged” candidate Hildabeast on those grounds…because none of the candidates has principals.

Kind of like what you Repubs did to Ron Paul the other day on the “pork” accusations…You guys say: “So what if Paul is “responsible” for 1/100 of the pork that my RINO is responsible for…he’s still responsible for pork so he’s a hypocrite…I feel so much better voting for my Republican who really doles out (and rolls about in…) the pork.”

Have you guys read about R. Paul’s opinion of the U.N….for instance? No, why should you…he’s against the war in Iraq…and besides, the Capt says he’s a hypocrite. Just like the moonbats are saying Fred’s a hypocrite.

Posted by syn | July 7, 2007 8:55 AM

It isn't that Ron Paul is against the war in Iraq, it is that he is a 'truther'. I know because my 18 year old nephew is supporting the guy believeing that Bush Lied and we went into Iraq for the Oil. My nephew also now believes for some odd reason that Bush has taken away our second amendment rights because of the Patriot Act violates our civil liberties.

Of course he's only 18, his whole life socially enginneered never to question whatever the establishment man says.

Posted by Hank Essay | July 7, 2007 8:58 AM

I haven't visited a right-wing site in a while. Are you guys really still talking about the billing records? As a way to excuse Fred Thompson from his obvious hypocrisy? Jeez, louise, folks, you guys are more pathetic than I thought....

Posted by Doc | July 7, 2007 9:03 AM

Let me see if I have this straight, according to the rationale of the LAT, if you represent a client in any degree whatsoever, you automatically assume that individual's values?

So therefore, all the attorneys who have defended clients on murder/rape/child abuse/etc. are as bad as their clients and have the same potentially criminal mineset.

LAT, nice try, but you still can't find smearworthy information against our next president.

Posted by martin | July 7, 2007 9:21 AM

Hank, if he didn't bill, would you think he did all that high-powered lobbying (or was it lawyering) for free? You obviously have never retained a DC firm like Arent Fox, which will bill you for the phone call they make to cancel a meeting with you (true story). The simple point is: what will the best evidence show? Why argue over partisan recollections when there may be objective evidence. Oh, sorry, I forgot--facts might obscure the party line (of course, both parties are frequently guilty of this tactic).

Posted by GarandFan | July 7, 2007 10:10 AM

Think I'll call Bill Burkett and see if he can find the "lost billing documents". I'm 100% sure that he'll be able to find them.

Posted by jpe | July 7, 2007 11:15 AM

It doesn't have a great deal to do with their political positions, if in fact Fred ever did any work for NFPRR at all.

So he'll sell out his beliefs as long as the price is right.

Thanks for clarifying.

Posted by jpe | July 7, 2007 11:19 AM

So therefore, all the attorneys who have defended clients on murder/rape/child abuse/etc. are as bad as their clients and have the same potentially criminal mineset.

Good god, you're stupid.

Unlike lawyers, lobbyists don’t have a professional duty to see that everyone is represented. A lawyer that represents a client with whom she disagrees is discharging an ethical duty and protecting a constitutional right.

A lobbyist that does that is just a shill.

Posted by cali_sun | July 7, 2007 11:30 AM

This is nothing but a hitjob from one of the proxy Clinton team; as Bob Beckel stated on Hannity & Colmes "the only one person democrats are afraid of is Fred Thompson'! I guess it's better to get an early start to smear someone hoping to damage chances. What a bunch of wusses, and cowards! Perfectly tailored to the Clinton team.

Posted by syn | July 7, 2007 11:56 AM

The word 'pathetic' is overused to the point of irrevelent, could the oppositon manage to at least expand their vocabulary once in a while.

Posted by GOP08_DOA | July 7, 2007 11:56 AM

Howdy neighbors! I'm going to reserve judgment on this one until all the facts are in. Frankly, I, personally, could give a crap.

But here's the rub. If this turns out to be true, all your top tier guys, Rudy, Freddy & Mitty, have some serious hurdles to overcome with ultra conservative voters. Already, Mitt is getting tossed to wolves by some of the christian right for the hotel porn thing. And they're certainly not going to buy into Rudy's drag thing with Donald Trump once the YouTube video reaches the masses.

Uh, I hate to sound like a worry troll. But, if I were you guys, I'd be praying this isn't true.

Posted by syn | July 7, 2007 12:00 PM

Pardon me that should read 'irrelevent opposition'

Posted by syn | July 7, 2007 12:06 PM

Quite frankly DOA I fear the religious Left a whole lot more than Christian right, at least the Right does not have this freaky need to suck out babies brains.

Posted by GOP08_DOA | July 7, 2007 12:20 PM

...at least the Right does not have this freaky need to suck out babies brains.
Posted by: syn

My point exactly. God willing (for the Fred faithful), Fred Thompson had not one thing to do with such a horrible group people.

Now that was a worry troll, but you asked for it.

Posted by onlineanalyst | July 7, 2007 9:07 PM

Wait, wait! I think that those elusive billing records can be found in a stack at Kinko's.

Posted by exDemocrat | July 7, 2007 10:44 PM

The LAT, WaPo, and NYT jumped the shark looooong ago.

My gawd, did it feel good canceling my WaPo. Freeing!

Run Fred Run!

The lib panic is a joy to behold. :)

Posted by NT in TN | July 8, 2007 8:04 AM

Even if it were true this still makes Fred the most anti-abortion candidate likely to win the Republican Nomination.

It comes down to this:
Between Guliani,Romney & Thompson who is most likely to appoint judges with good sense?

This story if it were true could amount to one of those doped up baby-brain sucking vampires meeting Fred at Arent Fox and assuming that Fred was also working for them to further their cause of classifying babies as "masses of tissues".

Are any documents these guys come up with going to be of better quality than the stuff you find at a live stock auction?

Posted by SCSoxFan | July 8, 2007 3:48 PM

You aren't going to hear anymore about this from Thompson. The billing records will be with Arent Fox, not Thompson. Arent Fox is a Democrat-leaning law firm. If they had billing or other records supporting this claim by NFPRR don't you think they would have released them by now? In fact, the head of the firm declined to comment to the LAT for the article. I strongly suspect that Thompson informally met and discussed some general information regarding this as part of his "of counsel" retainer, but never actually did any lobbying. NFPRR is hitting this because Thompson is the most pro-life top tier contender and they saw a chance to take him down some notches. Thompson is in a no-win situation. He can keep trying to "prove a negative" (not doing any lobbying) but without the Arent Fox records (which he ain't gonna get) he can't. Even though his supposed lobbying target, Sununu, has flatly denied any lobbying took place, the MSM will just assume the story is true (they already are as, may I add, a hell of a lot of supposedly conservative bloggers). He's put out his and Sununu's denials. The best thing he can do now is just shut up about it and let it die a natural death, since NFPRR can't prove anything either.

Posted by jhlipton | July 9, 2007 6:21 PM

Someone needs to start a Wiki that has entries for particular journalists, lawyers, politicians and bureacrats that collects idiocies, lies, and subterfuges by the name of the liar, confabulator, prevaricator, backstabber etc. and is fully referenceable for all time.

Can we start with the current administration and its apologists? They may not "suck out babies' brains" but thet have certainly killed plenty of Americans with their lies and prevarications.

Not lethal, but recent: Sep 20, 2002: "Any one involved with [outing Valerie Plame] will be taken care of." Now we know what that means.

Posted by Socon Man | July 19, 2007 7:08 PM

Fred Thompson and staff has proven himself to be deceitful time after time. His schtick is also getting as old as he is.
Finally, He is not prolife, no matter what he says or the whole 3 votes in the senate that did not deal with criminalizing abortions in the first few months.