November 4, 2007

Front Page News: 24 Years Ago ....

The Washington Post front-pages a story about a Fred Thompson friend who has a drug dealing conviction from 24 years ago. Apparently looking for a Norman Hsu analog in the Republican primaries, Matthew Mosk tells all about Philip Martin and his private jet service to Thompson, but pushes the age of the conviction down a few paragraphs into the story (via Memeorandum):

Republican presidential candidate Fred D. Thompson has been crisscrossing the country since early this summer on a private jet lent to him by a businessman and close adviser who has a criminal record for drug dealing.

Thompson selected the businessman, Philip Martin, to raise seed money for his White House bid. Martin is one of four campaign co-chairmen and the head of a group called the "first day founders." Campaign aides jokingly began to refer to Martin, who has been friends with Thompson since the early 1990s, as the head of "Thompson's Airforce."

Thompson's frequent flights aboard Martin's twin-engine Cessna 560 Citation have saved him more than $100,000, because until the law changed in September, campaign-finance rules allowed presidential candidates to reimburse private jet owners for just a fraction of the true cost of flights.

Martin entered a plea of guilty to the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana in 1979; the court withheld judgment pending completion of his probation. He was charged in 1983 with violating his probation and with multiple counts of felony bookmaking, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy. He pleaded no contest to the cocaine-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which stemmed from a plan to sell $30,000 worth of the drug, and was continued on probation.

In any other context, the Post would run this story as a demonstration of the success of Martin's probation. He cleaned up his act at age 25, began building small businesses on his way to a small fortune, and ended up participating in the political process. Nothing in Mosk's article gives any indication that Martin has committed any crimes since 1983, despite his attempt to use a couple of lawsuits at the end -- lawsuits which look rather routine for a man engaging in diverse, legal enterprises.

Mosk mentions Norman Hsu before the fold, writing that he was "one of several top political fundraisers with a criminal past to gain access this year to a presidential contender." Hsu didn't just have a criminal past, however -- he had skipped out on a three-year sentence for fraud, and had spent the intervening time working up new cons. He has a criminal present. There's a rather large difference between a man who did his probation, cleaned up his act, and contributes positively to his community, and a man who runs $60 million Ponzi schemes to funnel money into the Democratic Party while remaining a fugitive from his first conviction.

Thompson's team should have vetted Martin better and prepared for this revelation. However, it's certainly not a Page One revelation. A search for "Norman Hsu" at the Post reveals that they gave this story less than stellar treatment. The first story found comes on 9/6, which was an AP report on the website. On 9/7, Mosk and John Solomon reported on Hsu's appearance on the Democratic A-list, which got Page 3. The next day, Hsu's redirection of a fundraiser to Barack Obama got Page 5. Only Hillary Clinton's supposed return of $850,000 got Page 1 three days after that, although a story by Mosk about Hillary's intent to hit up those same donors again slid to Page 6.

Let's hope the Post seems as interested in history when Hillary's papers from the Clinton administration get released. We'll see if interesting revelations get the Martin treatment or the Hsu treatment in the next few months.


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