The L.A. Times today alleges that Fred Thompson once lobbied on behalf of an abortion rights group:
Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for the former Tennessee senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But the minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. say that the group hired Thompson that year.
Not only does Thompson (through a spokesman) deny it, but John Sununu, whom Thompson allegedly lobbied, categorically denies it:
Sununu said in a telephone interview: “I don’t recall him ever lobbying me on that at all. I don’t think that ever happened. In fact, I know that never happened.”
As evidentiary support, the paper cites no billing records, memoranda, letters, or other evidence of correspondence between Thompson and the group. Instead, the article provides quotes from two Democrats, and quotes (but does not produce) the alleged minutes of a meeting of the group’s board members.
It is inexcusable for the paper to fail to provide readers a copy of this, the only document supporting the allegation. I have complained many times about the paper’s failure to show readers key documents that are central to major stories. I can imagine no excuse for this failure, especially in this case. Perhaps the paper doesn’t want the document itself subjected to scrutiny? Do they fear that the bloggers who discovered Dan Rather’s memos were forgeries might take too close a look at the document underlying this story?
Let the newspaper provide the documentation to back up its claims first. Then we can discuss what, if anything, it means.
As for me, even if the allegation turns out to be true, it has absolutely zero significance for me.
I generally agree with Captain Ed that you can’t tell a lawyer’s personal beliefs by looking at the beliefs of his clients. Indeed, there are cases of lawyers representing clients whose beliefs they find repugnant. When Gerry Spence defended the racist Randy Weaver, or when ACLU lawyers represented the Nazis who sought to march at Skokie, nobody thought these lawyers agreed with their clients’ bigoted beliefs.
Then again, in those cases, the lawyers were fighting for a principle they believed in, whether it was the First Amendment, or the right of individuals to be defended in criminal court. If Fred Thompson lobbied on behalf of an abortion rights group, what grand principle would he have been defending? The principle that even the worst person deserves a lobbyist?
Thompson certainly had the option to turn down the work, assuming he did it to begin with. For this reason, I think the allegation (if true) shows at best that Thompson is not a fanatic on the abortion issue.
To me, that’s not a problem. I don’t need a fanatic in the White House. I just need someone who will do the right thing. Based on his voting record, I’m not particularly worried about Thompson doing the right thing on abortion.
I can’t speak to how ardent pro-lifers might react to today’s news, but if they’re smart, they’ll shrug it off.
P.S. If it’s important to know who a lawyer represented, can we once again discuss Hillary’s clients? Right, I know: it’s old news.