Following up on Josh's item
about Fred Thompson lobbying for pro-choice policies on behalf of a family-planning group, the story represents a double threat to the nascent presidential hopeful.
First, this is a major new challenge for Thompson, who has struggled
a bit to prove his anti-abortion bona fides, to prove to the far-right GOP base that he's sufficiently right-wing.
Taking up the defense for Thompson, however, is John Hinderaker, who makes a passionate case
that a lobbyist should not necessarily be judged by his or her clients. Lobbyists, like lawyers, may take on patrons with whom they disagree.
But the story here is not just that Thompson lobbied for a pro-choice cause, but that he's vociferously denying it
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 H. 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.
The response is ... odd. The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. produced the minutes of a 1991 board meeting that say the group hired Thompson to lobby on the group's behalf. Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family planning association at the time, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months, and noted the multiple meetings and conversations she had with Thompson about his progress in lobbying for her cause. What's more, the LA Times spoke to "three other people [who] recalled Thompson lobbying against the rule on behalf of the family planning association."
Former Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.), Thompson's former law-firm colleague, helped connect Thompson to the family-planning group in the first place, and said it was "absolutely bizarre" for Thompson to deny his lobbying work.
"I talked to him while he was doing it, and I talked to [DeSarno] about the fact that she was very pleased with the work that he was doing for her organization," Barnes said. "I have strong, total recollection of that. This is not something I dreamed up or she dreamed up. This is fact."
If Thompson wanted to make the Hinderaker-like argument that he took on a client with which he disagreed, he could try to make the case and hope the Dobson crowd bought it. But it's far more peculiar for Thompson to simply deny the work outright.
Getting away with lobbying for a pro-choice client is an awkward hurdle. Getting caught lying about it can dog a presidential campaign for quite a while.