The 16th minute: Fred Thompson lobbying story escalates with new reports of billing records

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 though he recently said he did not recall doing any work for the organization.

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.

Mr. Thompson’s work for the family planning agency has become an issue because he is positioning himself as a faithful conservative who is opposed to abortion.

Earlier this month, Mr. Thompson disputed accounts by the group’s former president and others, saying through a spokesman that he had “no recollection” of doing anything to aid the group’s efforts to overturn a rule banning federally financed clinics from dispensing information about abortion to pregnant women. At most, said Mr. Thompson’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, he “may have been consulted by one of the firm’s partners who represented this group.”

Yesterday, Mr. Corallo said the family planning group was an Arent Fox client.

“The firm consulted with Fred Thompson” he said. “It is not unusual for a lawyer to give counsel at the request of colleagues, even when they personally disagree with the issue.”

My thoughts are more in line with Patterico’s than Ed’s on this story, especially this part of Patterico’s post:

P.P.P.S. I should make clear that none of this means Thompson necessarily lied. John Hinderaker says:

Nothing in the records contradicts Thompson’s statements that 1) he has no recollection of working on behalf of this group, and 2) he is quite sure that he did not lobby John Sununu on its behalf.

OK, that’s fine. 19 hours of work done 14 years ago is not something you’d necessarily remember.

But the problem is that his campaign issued a blanket denial, when it shouldn’t have. That was an unforced error. For that reason, I disagree with my friend John when he says the story merits a “yawn” and nothing more.

I also find it hard to believe that Thompson would ‘not recall’ or ‘forget’ the work he did as a lobbyist. Let me put it this way: If the work Thompson had done been to help lobby against abortion on the whole or a specific abortion procedure, you can best bet that he’d remember that and it’d be on his resume.

Fred!Does this all mean that Fred Thompson is evil? Nope. It just means that, like most every other politician, he remembers the things he’s done in the past that would bolster his image while ‘forgetting’ things that have the potential of hurting his image. I still think overall that Fred is a solidly pro-life candidate, but he needs to do a lot better of a job at heading off stories like this one at the pass – otherwise he’ll be “Romneyed” a lot more, and by that, I mean, he’ll keep getting hit with stories about how he supposedly ‘used to be in favor of’ xyz issue and appear to be someone who flip flops for political purposes.

Memeorandum has the blogosphere’s reactions so far today to this story.


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