Patterico's Pontifications

7/18/2007

Fred’s Billing Records Found!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:32 pm



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.

34 Responses to “Fred’s Billing Records Found!”

  1. Alan:

    (sample comment here under post Giuliani to Unveil a Quality-Filled “Justice Advisory Committee”) do you still think Fred Thompson’s potentially lying about another matter related to his past(?) abortion position is unimportant?

    Anyone else, to find out what I’m talking about, click here.

    (Note: blogger is apparently a raving moonbat liberal, but that doesn’t make him wrong.)
     
     
    I was a huge Fred supporter, and would like to be again… but my spirits are right about dragging right about now.

    Christoph (8741c8)

  2. Well, there’s still the possibility that the records are forged, or that the NYT is misrepresenting them. Rathergate does show what some people are capable of, after all.

    But assuming that they’re genuine and they say what the NYT says they say, then we’re out of explanations and into excuses. It’s not the end of the world; he spent 20 hours on this, 16 years ago? He may just have forgotten it.

    I know I’ve spent longer than that, more recently than that, on stuff that I have no recollection whatsoever of. I remember more than once looking at a program and wondering what the $#^%& it did, only to realise that I must have written it. Only last week I went into a program to fix a bug and found that I’d already fixed it months ago, and forgotten all about it (the client turned out to have been using an old copy of the executable, from before I fixed it). And when Google Groups resurrected Usenet posts from the 1980s I found posts I had completely forgotten writing, making arguments I no longer necessarily agreed with.

    So I could buy Thompson not remembering this. A lot of water’s flowed under the bridge since 1991.

    Milhouse (ef8775)

  3. Sure. See my P.P.P.S. The problem is not that Fred lied. I don’t know that he did. It’s that his campaign gave people that impression, by issuing a blanket denial, when they never should have.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  4. You’re right about his campaign handling this poorly (always ask questions and gather info before giving answers, for goodness sakes)…

    However, I think it’s too early to let Fred off the hook. And I want someone to show me where I’m 100% wrong here.

    Since Milhouse mentioned Fred’s forgetting under this thread, I’ll repeat the main thrust of a comment I made under the previous thread. As someone who strongly opposes abortion personally, I’m somewhat incredulous someone who has allegedly always opposed abortion “forgetting” they lobbied for a pro-abortion group.

    Christoph (8741c8)

  5. Previous clients of the Fred’s spokesman Mark Corallo:

    Scooter Libby
    John Ashcroft
    Bob Livingston

    Livingston was set to become Republican Speaker of the House, but it turned out he was having an affair…during Clinton’s impeachment, so he resigned.

    Who replaced Bob?

    David “Diapers” Vitter.

    http://www.corallomedia.com/pages/aboutmark.html

    Maybe this episode will convince Corallo to end his short, unhappy career as a spinnner?

    alphie (015011)

  6. 3 hours isn’t enough lobbying to get far, as it would include phone calls(including time spent on hold doing crossword puzzles), arrangements, and introductions. Which is probably the whole extent, given Marc Fleischaker’s statement, “Regardless of whatever the political ramifications are, Fred was being a good colleague by helping out one of the firm’s partner.”

    Fleischaker seems to be implying that Fred’s role was assistive of a colleague, not a direct lobbying effort. This is pure speculation on my part, but given the small ammount of time spent, I would not be surprised if the totality of Fred’s efforts consisted of “lobbying” to get the Administration to see an AF lobbyist in order for them to lobby for their client.

    Brian Epps (323051)

  7. No offense, but this really bombs as a bombshell, if that is what is supposed to be.

    Topsecretk9 (29c012)

  8. […] Patterico reminds us of the earlier denials: Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo adamantly denied that Thompson […]

    Fred Thompson: Pro-abortion Lobbyist and Liar? « Blogs 4 Brownback (fbaf5b)

  9. […] 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. […]

    Sister Toldjah » The 16th minute: Fred Thompson lobbying story escalates with new reports of billing records (1466f5)

  10. […] beat me to the punch. What on earth was Mark Corallo thinking when he told the LA Times no way nuh uh never happened […]

    Hot Air » Blog Archive » NYT: Billing records show Fred did lobby for abortion group (d4224a)

  11. OK, so lets break this down. We have, as best I can tell.

    3 1/3 hours actually lobbying unknown officials for something unknown.

    22 conversations, presumably short, or we’d have exceeded the 19 hours. I’m guessing they’re probably billed at 1/3 hour each.

    “Much of the time” sitting in on teleconferences. There’s only about 9 billed hours left, so that’s the majority of it.

    Be serious, we’re talking about 19 lawyer-hours, which could be as little as 10 hours of someone elses time.

    Was the blanket denial bad? Yeah. But what does it tell me? It tells me that he didn’t do very much of this at all, or he would have remembered.

    Skip (e63117)

  12. Not much of a bombshell. The blanket denial was poor staff work, though.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  13. What matters is Thompson’s Pro-Life record in the Senate; when put in a position to exercise his political power, his record is good.

    Kathy (c7b6bf)

  14. These billing records were found a lot sooner than the ones from Rose Law Firm for a certain co-President. Wonder what made Fred’s records so findable and Mrs. Clinton’s so … not.

    I'm Geekier (74c853)

  15. 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?…

    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 di…

    BeldarBlog (72c8fd)

  16. I want to thank the NYT for showing that Fred Thompson is no ideologue.
    Thanks again.

    Neo (cba5df)

  17. Well I think we now have an idea why the campaign launch has been held up.

    Crust (399898)

  18. Christoph:
    I’m somewhat incredulous someone who has allegedly always opposed abortion “forgetting” they lobbied for a pro-abortion group.

    In fairness to Thompson, I don’t think he or his campaign have ever said that he always opposed abortion. Thompson was pro-choice till some time in a range around 1997-2000 I think. It’s just as a practical matter, his voting record was almost indistinguishable from a pro-life record because he opposed federal funding of abortion and supported parental notification laws.

    I think what potentially makes this abortion lobbying politically problematic (putting aside the dissembling) is that it was related to public financing. Though really I think most people get that lobbyists don’t necessarily agree with everything they lobby for.

    The falsity of this denial does make one wonder about another abortion-related denial: Did Thompson ever support Roe v. Wade in the early 90’s or not? He says he didn’t, but the evidence suggests he did.

    Crust (399898)

  19. a man who lies to you to get elected president will lie to you once he’s in office. haven’t we had enough of that in the last six and a half years?

    oh, but he forgot, you say. that sounds like the scooter libby defense “i forgot that i outed valerie plame, so my denial to the fbi wasn’t a lie.” at some point, a really bad memory should disqualify you from being president.

    assistant devil's advocate (f804d8)

  20. […] Billing Records Found!” Save and Share: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can […]

    Fred Thompson Did Work for Pro-Abortion Group » The American Mind (93c2f1)

  21. Fred! in SOCIALCON doghouse?…

    Beats me. Turns out that he did some lobbying work — 20 hours worth, to be exact — a decade and a half ago for pro-abortion concerns.
    Now, as I’ve argued before (and as Powerline argues here), I don’t find (with, eg., Allah), t…

    protein wisdom (e95a11)

  22. Not exactly a Kurt Waldheim expose; and I agree that it’s good to know he’s not an ideologue.

    Unless there’s more, it sounds like much to do over not very much, similar to the flap over John Roberts providing some brief polishing and moot court practice in Bush v. Gore.

    It’s the kind of story that the Dems “know” will put a stake through the heart of a campaign because the GOP voters are just looking for an idealogical excuse to feel betrayed by their candidates. Go get’em.

    capitano (03e5ec)

  23. Capitano:
    This incident is similar to the flap over John Roberts providing some brief polishing and moot court practice in Bush v. Gore.

    Did Roberts or a spokesman for him make false statements about what he did for Bush v. Gore?

    Crust (399898)

  24. “in fairness to Thompson, I don’t think he or his campaign have ever said that he always opposed abortion. Thompson was pro-choice till some time in a range around 1997-2000 I think. It’s just as a practical matter, his voting record was almost indistinguishable from a pro-life record because he opposed federal funding of abortion and supported parental notification

    Thanks, Crust.

    For now, barring further revelations, this is the position I take. I agree with Patterico, however, that his campaign staff handled this badly and put Thompson in a worse situation here than needed. His friends shouldn’t be criticizing him before he enters the race, only his adversaries.

    It also reflects less than ideally on Thompson that he didn’t sit down after the fact with the staffers making overly optimistic blanket denials and get them to be more careful in their pronouncements.

    Christoph (8741c8)

  25. This incident is similar to the flap over John Roberts providing some brief polishing and moot court practice in Bush v. Gore.

    Did Roberts or a spokesman for him make false statements about what he did for Bush v. Gore?

    Comment by Crust — 7/19/2007 @ 10:55 am

    You think that’s what this is about? Some gotcha comment from the not-quite-ready for a campaign staff?

    capitano (03e5ec)

  26. I always like the way Conservatives bend over backward to make excuses for one of their own caught in a lie that would receive a full hour’s review on FoxNews were it to come from a Democratic (planned) candidate for President.

    But, as always, the standards Conservatives hold for Republicans are always much more relaxed than the ones they hold for Democrats.

    Philadelphia Steve (e39dcf)

  27. OK, now I’m just confused. According to an NRO Editorial:

    In April, [Thompson] said that he was baffled that anyone would have thought he had been pro-choice. But debate clips, questionnaires, and constituent letters from the mid-1990s all establish that he was indeed pro-choice.

    Did Thompson really say that he was never pro-choice? (Or what else would being baffled by others thinking he had been pro-choice mean?) I thought it was well known that he was once pro-choice (while favoring most proposed restrictions on abortion).

    Crust (399898)

  28. I’m pretty sure that Hillary won’t bring up “billing records”, so again it’s a yawn.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  29. I’ll agree that a blanket denial was a bonehead move, but I think a fair look at those billing records show this is a non-issue. Sitting in on some conference calls and a couple of introductory converstations? That sounds pretty much like what being “of counsel” is about. And in terms of whether or not he remembered it, we aren’t talking about some significant event which SHOULD be remembered. We’re talking about a couple of hours spent on the job, doing on the job things. It tends to run together after a couple of days, let alone years. You don’t have to be a Thompson supporter to think this is pretty dull as far as dirt digging goes.

    Kyle (f9e972)

  30. #25, Philly Steverino…
    At least Conservatives HAVE standards!!!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  31. Hmmm.

    What is it about Republicans that if your candidate or politician isn’t a pure as the driven snow you want them thrown under the bus?

    Good luck with that.

    memomachine (0b5c51)

  32. Hmmmm.

    @ Philadelphia Steve

    “But, as always, the standards Conservatives hold for Republicans are always much more relaxed than the ones they hold for Democrats.”

    Complete and utter BS. Look at the very long list of Republicans forced out of office compared to the vast number of Democrats kept in office even after committing crimes.

    memomachine (0b5c51)

  33. Omagawd. A major controversy. My faith in democracy is shattered. Shattered, I tell you.

    BFD.

    bobdog (1da821)

  34. I know this is late, but seriously, this is a large bit of nonsense. I mean, seriously! If you do not remember doing this little bit of work (and given that it may have been his assistant doing the billing records for him, and he just rubber stamps his signature on the papers), then of course you are going to say that you have never done it. Remember…

    Never!
    Never?
    Well, hardly ever.

    Basically, what I am getting at is that he may well have entirely forgotten and said as much to his campaign. Which makes him careless. And whatever the case may be, he had better ‘fess up. A sheepish “Oops, I plumb forgotten about that” or a “Dang! How’d that slip mah mind?” would do. No cover up. No stonewalling. No damned lies. Just admit it.

    Gregory Kong (f7735e)


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