July 19, 2007

Billing Records Resurrected? (Updated & Bumped)

The Los Angeles Times will report in the next day or so that billing records have been found at Arent Fox which show some consultations between Fred Thompson and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. The records will show that Arent billed the NFPRHA for nineteen hours of consultation over a period of fourteen months. The time period corresponds roughly to the time frame between when the NFPRHA claims they hired Thompson as a lobbyist, in September 1991.

We can expect the billing records to make a big splash in the blogosphere. However, a few points should be noted. Fred Thompson made it clear that he never represented this group as a lobbyist, and that he never lobbied John Sununu on their behalf. Sununu verified Thompson's denial. Thompson never denied nor confirmed that he provided some consultation on their behalf through Arent Fox, saying that he could not recall either way.

If the source has the details correct, it would appear to support Thompson's statements. A lobbyist who only bills 19 hours in 14 months would be a highly unsuccessful lobbyist, and the client idiotic. The billing would be consistent with internal consultations at Arent between Thompson and whomever represented the NFPRHA's lobbying interests, perhaps in the nature of gaining Thompson's perspective on various members of the Bush administration, although there also could have been direct consultation with the NFPRHA.

The discovery of the billing records will create another nine-day wonder among the politically attuned. If it turns out to involve nothing more than nineteen hours in fourteen months, it may not even come to that much.

UPDATE & BUMP: The New York Times did the follow-up, as it turns out, but otherwise it seems about as advertised. It starts by saying that Thompson did "nearly 20 hours" worth of work for the NFPRHA, which again implies no continual working relationship. However, the Times says that the billing records show that he reported lobbying Bush (41) officials three times on the group's behalf:

According to records from Arent Fox, the law firm based in Washington where Mr. Thompson worked part-time from 1991 to 1994, he charged the organization, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, about $5,000 for work he did in 1991 and 1992. The records show that Mr. Thompson, a probable Republican candidate for president in 2008, spent much of that time in telephone conferences with the president of the group, and on three occasions he reported lobbying administration officials on its behalf.

In fact, it says that Thompson spent three and a half hours lobbying the White House -- but it doesn't say whom:

The billing records from Arent Fox show that Mr. Thompson, who charged about $250 an hour, spoke 22 times with Judith DeSarno, who was then president of the family planning group. In addition, he lobbied “administration officials” for a total of 3.3 hours, the records show, although they do not specify which officials he met with or what was said.

That seems a little thin, although if it appears on billing records, one has to assume he at least chatted with someone. However, it's clear that Fred was not the lobbyist for the NFPRHA, not unless they only spent 3.5 hours trying to effect policy change over 14 months. The current partner of Arent makes it pretty clear that Fred was consulting and not lobbying:

The family planning association became a client of Arent Fox through Michael Barnes, a former Democratic congressman who was then a partner at the firm. The firm’s current chairman, Marc Fleischaker, said, “Regardless of whatever the political ramifications are, Fred was being a good colleague by helping out one of the firm’s partner.”

So it appears that Barnes was the lobbyist, and Fred consulted ... occasionally. I don't think Fred intended to live on $5,000 every 14 months, and Barnes would be the obvious choice for lobbying at any rate.

As one of the commenters on this post wrote, this story is a nothingburger. However, Fred's team needs to make sure they don't make matters worse when nothingburgers arise in the future. Patterico calls the response an "unforced error", and he's right. It's one of the bumps in the road that serve as opportunities for improvement, but overall, my friend John at Power Line is correct -- this story is essentially a yawn. "Lawyer Consults! Film At 11!"


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» Fred’s Billing Records Found? from Patterico's Pontifications
Ed Morrissey writes that Fred’s billing records have been found: The Los Angeles Times will report in the next day or so that billing records have been found at Arent Fox which show some consultations between Fred Thompson and the National Family... [Read More]

» Fred’s Billing Records Found! from Patterico's Pontifications
Eight days ago, I said of the L.A. Times’s story on Fred Thompson’s lobbying for an abortion rights group: “the rumors of the death of the story’s credibility were greatly exaggerated.” I had no idea how right I was. The New Y... [Read More]

» The 16th minute: Fred Thompson lobbying story escalates with new reports of billing records from Sister Toldjah
Patterico and Captain Ed are all over this one: Billing records show that former Senator Fred Thompson spent nearly 20 hours working as a lobbyist on behalf of a group seeking to ease restrictive federal rules on abortion counseling in the 1990s, even ... [Read More]

» The Thompson Cipher from Left Flank
I’m still trying to understand the Fred Thompson obsession. Fortunately, TNR’s Michelle Cottle provides a biography of Fred D. Thompson—I’m sure social conservatives would call it character assassination. But, it’s clear this... [Read More]

» Do the views of a tangential client who represented 0.5% of Fred Thompson's law practice during two years a decade and a half ago disqualify him from the Presidency? from BeldarBlog
I've been of counsel to a couple of law firms, and a partner in a couple of other much larger ones. I've never been a single-issue voter. But presumably, some theoretical slice of the potential electorate, large or small, is considering whether to disq... [Read More]

» Fred Thompson Did Work for Pro-Abortion Group from The American Mind
The NY Times dims the glow surrounding Fred Thompson. They report he did do work for a pro-abortion group: According to records from Arent Fox, the law firm based in Washington where Mr. Thompson worked part-time from 1991 to 1994, he charged the organ... [Read More]

» Fred Thompson; aka Chubby Checker from bustardblog
Fred Thompson is not even a candidate, and already the Pretzels of Powerline are having to twist themselves into knots to defend him. I've posted before on their defense of his lobbying for an abortion rights group by arguing that [Read More]

Comments (35)

Posted by Duane | July 18, 2007 10:31 PM

When I read the title I swore you were talking about some Rose Law firm records. ; )

Posted by Sturm Ruger | July 18, 2007 10:32 PM

Remember, this same drive-by media that is attempting to paint Fred Thomspon durring this primary season as somewhat sympathetic to abortion, will attack him for his opposition to "a woman's right to choose" during the general election (in which he will win in a landslide against the queen of high negatives - liberal Sen. Hillary Clinton).

Posted by Jorge | July 18, 2007 11:11 PM

What the hell is going on at AF? What if Thompson were to actually go all the way (he's got a better shot than a lot of them)...won't they want access to him then? why would they be burning a bridge to power like this?

Unless, somehow, way behind the scenes, Thompson is going along with this in order to control the release and flow of information....

Posted by Always Right | July 18, 2007 11:29 PM

I don't trust Thompson on the abortion issue completely . He's not as big a flip flopper/opportunist that Romney is, but there is evidence he had a 'states rights' stance or even pro-abortion stance


After what us conservatives have gone through with broken promises, we need or candidates to put it down in writing that they'll do everything they can to get rid of abortion.

Posted by Steffan | July 19, 2007 12:00 AM

Aw, c'mon, Captain.... gotta give the moonbats something to froth over. Otherwise they'll be frightening the children in the park (as zombietime.com has documented more than once).


Posted by Brian Epps | July 19, 2007 12:21 AM


Posted by Christoph | July 19, 2007 1:36 AM

It's a problem for me.

The campaign messed up. Hopefully, Fred's not lying like a liberal makes a credible case for here ←.

I think that link is required reading. Don't do "ad hominem" and dismiss the source. Think and see if you agree.

I'm a Fred supporter who is having second thoughts... would dearly love to be proven wrong.

Patterico also has two excellent posts and they are worth reading. I'll give the link to the first here and the second in a separate comment to avoid the spam filter.


Posted by KendraWilder | July 19, 2007 1:43 AM

Nineteen hours in fourteen months. Lessee, that works out to roughly 1.35 hours per month.

Does the entity behind releasing this information to promote this dubious slur actually believe that the American voting public is so stoopid as to buy into the notion that Ol' Fred actually was an active lobbyist for any interest group or company at all on the basis of one hour and change per month?

Guess the MSM/Libs/Dems haven't quite transitioned into the 21st century yet... eh.

Posted by porter | July 19, 2007 1:50 AM

 There seems to be a pattern emerging of Thompson playing for both sides on abortion-related issues. The National Right to Life Committee was pretty unhappy with him in 1998 - he ignored the NRLC’s efforts to block McCain-Feingold, which threatened to restrict the NRLC’s ability to advertise for the pro-life cause. When the bill was narrowly defeated in 1998, the NRLC’s website reported that “every Democratic senator voted to advance the McCain-Feingold bill. On every vote, they were joined by seven Republicans who supported the bill: chief sponsor John McCain (Az.), Fred Thompson (Tn.), Susan Collins (Me.), Olympia Snowe (Me.), Arlen Specter (Pa.), John Chafee (RI), and James Jeffords (Vt.).”
Note that Thompson was one of only seven Republicans to oppose the NRLC’s position, and the only Southerner - other than McCain, the rest were solidly pro-choice, Northeastern Republicans.
When McCain-Feingold finally passed in 2002, NRLC explained again why they had fought so hard to defeat it:
“NRLC strongly opposed the legislation, because it would place sweeping restrictions on the right of citizen groups (such as NRLC and NRLC affiliates) to communicate with the public regarding the positions and votes of federal politicians on pro-life issues, and regarding upcoming votes in Congress.”
Unfortunately, McCain and Thompson’s persistent leadership on the bill helped to overcome the NRLC’s opposition, and the law passed - leaving it to James Bopp and Wisconsin Right to Life to reverse the damage in the Supreme Court last month.
If you’re really committed to ending abortion, it doesn’t help to hamstring the nation’s largest pro-life organization – or to lobby for the opposition.

Posted by esky | July 19, 2007 3:05 AM

Nothingm burger.

Posted by Brian Epps | July 19, 2007 4:47 AM

I have to inform you that crow tastes nothing at all like chicken. It seems that the MSM is not really moving the goalposts on this one.
They are just taking a 15-year-old dead finch and trying to hang it like an albatross around Fred's neck.

I'd really like to see those records. 3.3 billable hours for a lobbyist isn't very much time. Was this done on behalf of NFPRHA on the issue or was it only to get the Arent Fox lobbyist in the door?

Total billable hours less than 20? My last boss' unpaid parking tickets took more time.

About the only real troublemaker here is Corallo's overstatement to the LA Grimes. He took Thompson's response that he doesn't remember lobbying for NFPRHA and made an absolute statement. As Patterico said, this is an unforced error. This will be, and already has been, inflated to the Seared! Seared into my memory! level of fabrication.

My apologies for this comment being as disjointed as a Carol Herman Special. I had to write in snippets while getting real work done.

Posted by SDN | July 19, 2007 4:58 AM

How would they be burning a bridge to power? Either the President will be too polite to treat them like the jackals they are, or they can do what they do with this President and just make sh*t up. Or BOTH!

Either way, it won't affect the truthiness of what they produce.

Posted by Rovin | July 19, 2007 5:32 AM

Nineteen Hours, Sixteen Words? No wonder the print media's in trouble.

Today's NYT's already implys that McCain will eventually drop out:

"In interviews, aides to the Republican candidates said they did not want to say or do anything — like poaching former McCain aides — that could offend Mr. McCain and complicate any effort to win his endorsement should he drop out of the race."

Thompson's definately got the MSM and the DNC worried, while the left still struggles with no identity towards national security----and a cut n' run foreign policy.

Posted by oldfox | July 19, 2007 6:11 AM

It would appear to me that the liberals and MSM, and yes a FEW Republicans, are turning up the heat now, in hopes the can deter Fred from entering the race. Their nervousness is really starting to show. It will have no effect on Fred's decision.

Posted by onlineanalyst | July 19, 2007 6:17 AM

Wow! Fred Thompson surely is efficient if he was able to accomplish so much is so little billable time. He sounds like an executive who can "get 'er done".

Nothing to see here, folks. The DNC and the media are nervous as is becoming daily obvious. The muckrakers are desperate.

Go, Fred!

(Maybe the RNC should send a few roses over to the would-be-dictatress as a gentle reminder to sharpen her own memory.

Posted by DaveG | July 19, 2007 6:20 AM

19 hours? 1900 hours? 19,000 hours? Who cares??

The man had a job. Other people's jobs involve things like, say, making bullets. Or guns. Or whatever. It's a JOB, not a religion.

Even if it was, what am I, Joe Voter, supposed to do about it? Vote for the shrill (and I can safely say that without even knowing who it will be) candidate for the "Womans Right to Choose, Anytime Before the FifthTrimester" Party of gloom, class warfare, scandal, confiscatiory taxes, hosility towards at least the first two amendments, and overall cowardice?

This is the best they've got? Pfffft.

Posted by Immolate | July 19, 2007 6:23 AM

I find it amusing the amount of energy the liberals and liberal media are investing in telling Republicans how we should feel about our candidates. In my estimation, the candidate who generates the greatest number of negative articles in the New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press should get the nomination by default. If we relied on those organizations to pick a candidate for us, we'd wind up with Lincoln Chaffee as our guy. Hell even I would vote for Ralph Nadar at that point.

Posted by Tom Shipley | July 19, 2007 6:54 AM

What's Thompson's stance on abortion? Isn't he pro-choice?

Posted by gahrie | July 19, 2007 7:27 AM

Tom Shipley:

What's Thompson's stance on abortion? Isn't he pro-choice?

No. He's pro-federalism, which is all that matters.

Posted by John Gault | July 19, 2007 7:32 AM

His stance is Federalist IIRC. It's an issue best left up to the individual states to decide on their own since he doesn't believe it's covered by constitutional provisions.

Posted by MarkD | July 19, 2007 7:33 AM

Lawyer works for client - scandal. Lawyer fails to work for client - fraud. Lawyer refuses to work for client - discrimination.

I know we can tar him with something.

Posted by not the senator | July 19, 2007 7:40 AM

As I said when this first came out, it's the lying and coverup that will hurt Thompson more than the lobbying if the story turned out to be true.

When he give categorical denials and called DeSarno a partisan liar and then it turns out she was correct and you were the one being dishonest, it doesn't reflect well on Thompson's character. What else is he willing to say to get elected?

Posted by Tom Shipley | July 19, 2007 7:58 AM

No. He's pro-federalism, which is all that matters.

Yeah, but I thought I saw that he once said he wouldn't vote to ban abortion at the state level.

I'm just wondering if he's said anything recently about where he stands on abortion.

Posted by Jack Okie | July 19, 2007 8:02 AM


To me, crow tastes like burned feathers.

not a senator:

I apologize for my rather aggressive defense of Fred the other day. It does seem that his essay was in fact a direct response to this issue. It appears that sloppy staff work, rather than a deliberate decision to cover up, was at fault, but for anyone's campaign the onus is on them to be ready for hostile fire, and 20 hours or 2,000, Sununu or no Sununu, this was indeed an error, unforced or no.

Posted by doc | July 19, 2007 8:07 AM

Dog Bites Man story ... nothing to see here ... move along.

Posted by James Joyner | July 19, 2007 8:40 AM

I thought it was a "nothingburger" when the story first broke. The problem, though, is that Fred Thompson lied. He did in fact lobby for this group and, having talked to the woman whose charges he denied on the phone 21 times, it's inconceivable that he doesn't remember that. He's currently busy dousing the flames on his britches.

Posted by Lenny Scolaro | July 19, 2007 9:08 AM

James Joyner:

Relax James you want to guess how many participants were on that conference call, you want to guess how many conference calls Fred was on in one month. The article IMPLIES he spoke directly with her 22 times when in fact he most likely sat in with the partner managing the account 22 times on conference calls during which he was probably doing other work at the same time to bill other clients. I would venture a guess that most of those 19 hours were billed from the firms logs of the conference call participants.

If you have ever dealth with corporate attorneys and reviewed the bills your received you would know. I have seen bills from lawyers I never heard off and then realized they were consulting and on the confrence calls but never even spoke.

Also my guess is that lobbying effort was to get the former congressman partner access as Fred as a Senator probably was better connected.

Posted by Mark | July 19, 2007 9:16 AM

This sorta misses the point.

Back in 1992 as I surveyed the field, I could not help but notice that Bill Clinton changed his story of avoiding the draft no less than three times. Then he made his famous "did not inhale" comment.

What Bill was describing were things that happened 25 years ago (in 1992). I could care less what a man did 25 years ago -- short of murder. I've changed in 25 years -- I have to assume others change.

What I am interested in is the here and now. What was Bill Clinton like in 1992, not 1967. What I saw then was a man who thought nothing of bending, fudging, and otherwise modifying the truth if he thought it was to his advantage to do so. He was a weasel.

Fast forward to today. What Thompson did in 1992 concerning abortion is meaningless to me. He could have been the national spokesman for NARAL for all I care. But I do care about honesty and integrity in 2007. And what I am seeing in Thompson in 2007 is starting to remind me of Clinton in 1992.

And that scares me.

Posted by JAF | July 19, 2007 11:59 AM

I could care less about the abortion issue. However the Fred defenders are overlooking some pretty important points:

1) either Fred's team knowingly lied (we categorically deny that any meetings took place)

2) or they were so incompetent they couldn't go back and check his own records from 15 years ago.

Either way- I don't want this guy going up against the Clinton machine when he is clearly not ready for prime time-

even after waiting four months longer than every other candidate!!

Posted by Ray | July 19, 2007 7:02 PM

This just in: Fred Thompson is not a True Conservative! We Have Proof! News at 11.

This is nothing more than a weak attempt to influence the 2008 elections by the use of constant attacks upon the character of the opposing candidates, using dubious past records and/or nebulous former connections to groups or individuals who are perceived as the antithesis to the stated ideals and goals of that candidate, in an effort to portray that candidate as unworthy of consideration for office

Where have I heard this before? That's right, it reminds me of the accusations raised during the last presidential election suggesting that President Bush was actually AWOL when he was supposed to be serving in the Texas Air Nation Guard. There were even documents that PROVED the allegations, isn't that right Dan Rather? Someone should ask the Democrats how well that accusation worked for them.

If this is any indication of what the Democrats have in store for Republican candidates (or even those that have yet to announce their candidacy, as in the case of Mr. Thompson) then we're going to be in for yet another ugly campaign season.

I predict that this type of attack campaigning with actually hurt the Democrats in the 2008 elections. Just ask John Kerry.

Posted by kate | July 24, 2007 2:35 PM

Looks like Thompson is just an unprincipled lobbying insider. He sold his soul for money or for friends. He lobbied for abortionists. He lobbied for two-bit dictator, Aristide. He threw his Frederalist principles out the window in order to gang up with McCain's gang of 14 to assault the 1st Amendment when he co-sponsored McCain-Feingold. He is a confused RINO at best, an unprincipled, typical politiican at worst. Not ready for prime time. And, in no way capable of withstanding the onslaught of the Clinton machine. Too much baggage and too slow to respond. Put a fork in him.

Posted by kate | July 24, 2007 2:40 PM

The DNC will eventually make even a bigger deal out of Thompson's funny money PAC deals with his sons. Given that they've painted us with the "culture of corruption" label why given them this ammunition to hit us with by nominating someone with as much baggage as Fred?

Posted by kate | July 24, 2007 2:42 PM

The DNC will eventually make even a bigger deal out of Thompson's funny money PAC deals with his sons. Given that they've painted us with the "culture of corruption" label why given them this ammunition to hit us with by nominating someone with as much baggage as Fred?