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 York Times reports:
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.
. . . .
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.
I wonder if he charged for the re-enactment of that scene from “Keep the Change.”
The billing records’ specific references to lobbying sort of undercut this previous denial:
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.”
P.S. Earlier this evening, the spin at Captain’s Quarters from a “source” (one assumes a source from the campaign, although it could also be someone from Arent Fox) was:
Fred Thompson made it clear that he never represented this group as a lobbyist, and that he never lobbied John Sununu on their behalf. . . . If the source has the details correct, it would appear to support Thompson’s statements.
Well, if the New York Times has the details correct, then Ed’s source . . . didn’t.
P.P.S. Release the records!
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.