Patterico's Pontifications


Did Thompson Lobby for Abortion Rights Group?

Filed under: 2008 Election,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 9:15 am

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.

55 Responses to “Did Thompson Lobby for Abortion Rights Group?”

  1. You know, by the standard people are using to try to make this an issue, the ACLU are a bunch of Nazis for defending the Nazi’s right to march in Skokie.

    You might fault Thompson for having been a lobbyist in the same way you could fault Edwards for being a trial lawyer, but you can’t fault them for who their clients were.

    That belief combined with the absolute lack of hard evidence for this, make this a non-story.

    Strick (f71fe9)

  2. Granted this is a non-story.

    But I have to Wonder if Fred Thompson is the next Bill Clinton. His key performance and positions as a prospective president obscured by accusations and defenses against accusations that are really peripheral to his future performance.

    I don’t want to hear about Fred’s personality, his personal life, or the minutia of his Washington interactions anymore. I want to hear what Fred is about. And frankly I’m starting to wonder if that’s deliberate.

    I really don’t want another RINO President just because he has great speaking skills.

    jpm100 (44e950)

  3. It wouldn’t matter to if it were true, for just Patterico’s reasons, EXCEPT that Thompson has denied it. Were it to be proved true (with valid documents), then I would have a problem with the denial.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  4. By the way, does someone have to be a social conservative to be a Republican now? Has everyone else been written out of the Party? What happened to Ronald Reagan’s big tent?

    Do the rest of us libertarians or business types need to go start another party? Do let us know.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  5. #4
    That is a very good question. One or two issue campaigns are problematic. The Republicans have an opportunity to put another conservative or two on the SC if they win the WH again. This will spell the end of much of the social experiments that came about in the sixties and influence our courts for the next 50 years or more.
    But given the self important boasting of the base and its references to moderates as RINOs, Dems as traitors and the like I think that we will see that chance to influence the courts tossed out with the garbage.

    voiceofreason63 (807b47)

  6. I think the issue here is going to be the denial. Who’s lying, Desarno or Thompson, because only one can be telling the truth. If Thompson is not telling the truth, he’s in serious credibility trouble.

    wirro (b3bccc)

  7. Not only does the LA Times and others who were spoon fed this story not show the purported minutes of the board in question but they don’t explain how they verified they were really the minutes and not something ginned up to sink what they considered a dangerous opponent to who ever the Democratic candidate will be. I doubt if the various media outlets running this story care if the documents are real or not considering who it helps and who it hurts.

    Rick (d299fb)

  8. Those fringe conservatives need to be ignored. They’re crazy. But don’t they dare sit out the vote again.

    jpm100 (44e950)

  9. How much does Fred pay for his haircuts?

    alphie (015011)

  10. They’ve really stepped up the Thompson smearing this past week!

    Barney (b3f6e4)

  11. i agree with the call for documentation of the lobbying charge, and the proposition that lawyers don’t necessarily think the same way as their clients, however, there was just a little more in the article that you omitted: in 1994, he filled out a questionnaire in connection with his tennessee senate campaign in which he stated that abortion should be legal in the first trimester, and now he’s telling us he doesn’t remember whether he or his staff filled it out, and that the staff may have filled it out incorrectly. there is apparently no disagreement that the questionnaire exists. instead of honestly confronting his past positions and explaining the evolution of his thinking, he’s weaselling to pander to the fundies. i hope they crucify him.

    assistant devil's advocate (442500)

  12. I’m voting for Hillary. I have no doubt about her politics and there’s a lot about Stalinism that I admire — apart from the genocides, deliberate starvations, pogroms, mass executions, assassinations and exiles to Siberia of course. 😉

    nk (d0f918)

  13. …How much does Fred pay for his haircuts?…

    The barber gets a piece price of so much per hair. Fiscal conservancy in action. But when I tried it with my own tonsorial expert he then turned around and claimed an additional charge as a finder’s fee. With a straight razor within his reach, I acceded to the deal.

    allan (28cb4e)

  14. ADA, if you filled out a questionnaire on you political positions thirteen years ago, would you remember? And would you remember exactly what position you held on a borderline issue on that particular day that long ago? I doubt it. Almost no one could. Why do you Democrats always try to turn any disagreement or error into a Republican lie?

    Don’t answer that, because we all know. Lies are an essential part of the Democrat strategy. Democrats have to lie because what they really believe is so unpopular. To insulate themselves from having their lies revealed, they have to throw the word around a lot to make it lose its force. It lets them create a built-in defense to being caught out in their mendacity: “Oh well, Republicans call Democrats liars, Democrats call Republicans liars, it’s just politics.”

    But the parties are not equal. Republicans forget things, misstate things, and even lie on occasion like any human being does. But for Democrats, lies are built into the party platform. Many Democrats really do blame the US for 9/11. Many of them really do want to lose the war in Iraq. Many of them really do hold their own country in utter contempt. Anyone who lives in San Francisco and talks to people about politics knows that this is so.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  15. Doc,

    Are you saying Republicans are better liars than Democrats?

    alphie (015011)

  16. Many Democrats really do blame the US for 9/11. Many of them really do want to lose the war in Iraq. Many of them really do hold their own country in utter contempt.

    Doc, I hate to break it to you, but those are lies told by a certain portion of the Republican apparatus, for political purposes.

    There are some people who believe that, but not “many”. Perhaps they are thicker on the ground is San Francisco than most other places, but most people don’t mistake San Francisco as representative of the rest of the country.

    And as for your main contention, lies are built into the Republican platform as well. Lies such as the claim they know what they are doing in national security areas, the claim that they represent traditional political conservatism, the claim that they are not corrupt….

    I’m not saying that Democrats don’t lie; but I am saying that Republicans lie just as much, only they utter different lies. And the extreme claims you repeated are false. Those that make those claims in speaking to the general public are liars.

    kishnevi (2dbd61)

  17. Doc, I hate to break it to you, but those are lies told by a certain portion of the Republican apparatus, for political purposes.

    Lies? Go read some Democrat-heavy blogs some time…

    While Democratic politicians tend to shy away from such extremes, their constituents are more than happy to carry the torch for them.

    H2U (338ff2)

  18. Somebody is lying, and there is a paper trail that will tell us who.

    If Thompson did what the story claims, his firm would have timesheets, daily diaries, lunch and dinner receipts, and billing records. The client will also have copies if the bills.

    I agree with wirro – let’s find out who is lying.

    TomHynes (aab663)

  19. I suspect they’re trying to find a working Selectric as we speak.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  20. There seem to be a lot of people that emotionally, are heavily invested in Fred at this point and he has not even declared, let alone debated yet.
    Let the facts sort themselves out and try not to look for a conspiracy in everything.

    voiceofreason63 (807b47)

  21. Patterico, I think you’re making too much out of the LAT not making the document available. The quotation makes it clear that everything is based on Sarno’s sayso–both now, in providing the minutes to the LAT, and then, in telling the board that Thompson was hired (which is what the quote from the minutes says). I don’t know anything about Sarno, so I have no way of judging her credibility.

    However, I know of no reason Sununu might have to lie in this matter, which means I’m presuming that Thompson did not lobby Sununu.

    So either Thompson lied then to Sarno along the lines which Sarno suggested in the article, and is now lying/evading to the public; or Sarno lied/is lying now.

    kishnevi (03a14b)

  22. Someone is REALLY worried about a possible, or is that probable, Thompson candidacy.
    Here’s the discussion yesterday at Captain’s Quarters
    and, they link to the first break of this at The American Spectator

    The entire point of the arguement, which (please help here) did, or did not, show up in the LAT, is Thompsons’ status (“of counsel”) at a DC law firm (Arents) that was hired (the law firm, not Thompson) to represent a pro-abortion group.

    But, of course, we don’t expect the LAT to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, do we? For that, we have to buy one of the rags from the rack at the check-out line.

    Another Drew (758608)

  23. The Fredheads once again have turned into pretzels trying to defend this guy. There are actually at least five people that verify this story. As for Sununu, I wouldn’t believe it if he told me the sky is blue, I would have to check.

    The I don’t remember doesn’t ring true based on his 1994 survey he filled out but he probably doesn’t remember that either.

    Don’t know about anyone but I am tired of having someone that cannot remember. We don’t know where he stands but the far right is totally gaga and everything is a conspiracy.

    The GOP is not the party of the religious right and this election will prove that fact — we need to go back to the big tent of Reagan and leave the Bush cabal behind. Had enough of the Bush power brokers to last a lifetime and who is their candidate? Fred Thompson!

    Buckeyefan (273e95)

  24. #24 Buckeyefan –
    Well, I guess that you will not be supporting Hillary since, in every investigation of the 90’s, her standard reply was “I can’t remember”.

    Another Drew (758608)

  25. —“I’d just say the flies get bigger in the summertime. I guess the flies are buzzing,” said Thompson, who is considering running for president as a social conservative. He refused comment on whether he recalled doing the work.—

    AF (4a3fa6)

  26. Be kind to the Fredheads, Bucky.

    This season’s crop of Republicans make the political midgets of the 1996 run (Dole, Lamar Alexander, Buchanan, Forbes) look like giants.

    Can you blame them for wanting at least one guy in the race who at least looks the part?

    alphie (015011)

  27. Alphie’s nailed it. But let’s see whom we have on the Democrat side … the Good Wife, The Magical Kenyan, and The Silky Pony. Sheesh!

    nk (d0f918)

  28. Haha, nk,

    It’s all very well that the right has thought up pet names for the group of people from which our next president will be chosen to help ease your pain.

    Perhaps if you guys had some pet names for your concesion speech deliverer candidates?

    For ol’ Fred, may I suggest:

    The Tennessee Log?

    It works on sooo many levels.

    alphie (015011)

  29. Alphie,

    I grant you that each of the Democrats has a chance if Giuliani is the Republican nominee. He’ll pussy-out, wuss-out and drop-out the minute his girlfriend complains about his sexual performance.

    nk (7c00c1)

  30. Claims that the story is backed up by documents and no documents have been produced? Did Murray Waas write the story?

    daleyrocks (5a4736)

  31. There’s something about Fred or Mitt that is driving the Dem’s Media Wing (aka NYTimes, LATimes, et al) to distraction … they doing things like attempting to make a scandal out of a purportive Fred client or dissing Fred’s wife or trying to make a scandal over a Romney family trip in an overpacked station wagon 23 years ago.

    But hey, the putative Dem candidates are still too scared to venture beyond their owned media, and are busy proving infront of the usual tame audiences how filled with ‘the white man’s burden’ they are…

    NO wonder Dems are hot for the [anti]Fairness Doctrine.

    Darleen (187edc)

  32. That’s an interesting prediction, nk.

    Giuliani is the only Republican I’d consider voting for over any of the three top Democrats.

    Which of the other Republicans do you think has a chance to win next November?

    alphie (015011)

  33. I didn’t know you were allowed to vote Alphie. Are you a citizen of this country? What is your native language?

    daleyrocks (5a4736)

  34. Clinton Inc is the ultimateMega-corporate “packaging” combination in the Spouse Derby, and Giuliani has much more of an issue on marriage & abortion than Fred. Mr. Elizabeth Edwards is a repeat of Mr. Teresa Heinz Kerry. And Jeri is into having children, which Mr. Michelle Obama’s wife is not. Oh yeah, and what about the Gore-bot if he throws his hat in the ring with a hopeless recidivist stoned slacker for an AGIII scion? After all the piety about rock lyrics?! Hmmm, lots of action right across the board! And thankfully, the libs always do the Voter the courtesy of sharing the voices they hear in their heads!

    The NYT, its pilot fish, and the nutroots are all really scared of Fred, that’s for sure.

    daveinboca (d0db99)

  35. My question for libertarians and big tent Republicans is, moral issues aside how can a fiscal conservative/or libertarian support socially liberal platform of government funded abortion? Or for this matter, government funded stem cell research?

    It is not a contradiction to vote for small government while voting for big government?

    Seems to me it is impossible to be both fiscally conservative/libertarian while supporting social liberal policy; it all sounds nice but it isn’t realistic.

    Perhaps it is easier just to attack the social conservative for voting on their beliefs but it would be refreshing to see follow-thru on from those fiscal conservatives/libertarians who beleive in small government; how can you complain about big government power when you continue voting into office big government politicans?

    I like Rudy for his stance on the jihad war against us however, I’m not stupid enough to think that his federally funded abortion (or his climate change) stance represents anything remotely fiscally conservative.

    susan (7faf4d)

  36. #36 Susan

    Let me take a shot at answering your question. If someone like Rudy appoints strict constitutionalist judges as he has said, he passes on the matters of social issues to the states and in turn the voters.
    In my opinion if someone truly believes in smaller government and less federal intervention they must also be willing to accept that some states may be more liberal than the other. Take abortion for example. Had Roe v Wade been overturned it would not have banned abortion as many falsely believe. It would have pushed the issue back to the states.

    Which raise the possibility that many (using abortion as example) pro-choice and pro-life are not willing to gamble on; that their view could be defeated.

    When matters of morals and ethics are decided at a state level there is more citizen input and a better chance for better common sense legislation. If a person in a particular state doesn’t like the way the vote went they can always move to another state.

    That’s why I think Rudy can thread the needle you described. I don’t think Thompson or Romney can win Ohio and/or Virginia which means the election. Our judicial branch is the most important issue to me in regards to who fills the WH.

    voiceofreason63 (807b47)

  37. I agree that R v W should be overturned (a law not legislated and which has yet to define the meaning of fetus) and sent back to the states to decide which I believe is Thompson’s position, as well as, Guiliani’s up until the point Rudy stated the position that federally funded abortion should be made available to poor women: I believe the abortion budget this year is around $600 billion. I’m not sure if Romney is a Federalist.

    I also agree that if R v W is overturned states would not ban abortion just limit (ie rape, incest, health) it’s unregulated force however, how on earth our federal government is somehow financially responsible for citizen’s sex life remains perplexing to me but here we are after thirty years facing yet another election debating whether the government should be financially responsible for irresponsible people.

    susan (7faf4d)

  38. #38
    Good points about the funding. I agree with you in principle.

    voiceofreason63 (807b47)

  39. No. 38, Medicaid hasn’t covered elective abortions since the Carter administration. What abortion budget?

    lc (1401be)

  40. There are approximtely 1.3 million abortions performed in the United States each year. Let’s say each one costs $10,000 apiece. (They don’t.) And let’s assume each one of those abortions are paid for by the government. (They’re not.) 1.3 million times 10,000 equals 13 billion.

    So, your $600 billion figure is way off, too.

    lc (1401be)

  41. From a factual correctness point of view, lc is right.

    Now I oppose abortion… but finances aren’t my reason.

    Christoph (8741c8)

  42. And that’s fine, Chris. And if Susan doesn’t believe in abortion, she has every right to say so.

    But you can’t just make stuff up.

    lc (1401be)

  43. Susan,

    My question for libertarians and big tent Republicans is, moral issues aside how can a fiscal conservative/or libertarian support socially liberal platform of government funded abortion? Or for this matter, government funded stem cell research?

    The bill Bush has twice vetoed would not increase spending. It would simply allow more ESC research proposals to enter the competitive grant funding process. There’s no additional cost attached to it.

    Pablo (99243e)

  44. It’s “Christoph”, lc.

    Christoph (8741c8)

  45. Sorry.

    lc (1401be)

  46. No worries.

    Christoph (8741c8)

  47. Since I cannot find the article from where I learned of the 2007 abortion budget I stand corrected. The only information I can find, as of yet, is that Planned Parenthood’s federal subsidy is a little over $300 million however PP is not the only organization receiving funds for subsidized abortion so I cannot provide the exact number. I venture to guess that neither can many Americans since such financing is mixed in with various other social services provided for by the federal government.

    My concern is not with the morality of the issue but with the idea that the federal government is funding social programs which should be left to individual responsibility; with the exception of rape and incest, if it really is ‘a woman’s right-to-choose’ then the government should not be in the business of providing tax-funded abortions. Because abortions are federally funded her choice now becomes my choice and whether or not I agree with her choice I should not be forced to financially support what should be her/and his responsibility. Again with the exception of rape and incest I don’t care if people have sex just don’t force me to take on the responsibility of an act with which I had no part.

    That said, if Bush had not vetoed stem cell funding no doubt a Democrat in the White House would have expanded the funding, meaning yet another expansion of big government policy.

    susan (7faf4d)

  48. “… let’s see whom we have on the Democrat side … the Good Wife, The Magical Kenyan, and The Silky Pony”


    Bill Richardson makes the top-tier Republican candidates look like a bunch of second-string hacks. I know Clinton, Obama, and (especially) Edwards are crappy candidates, but give credit where credit is due, and remember that Richardson is on the up-and-up.

    Leviticus (feff7c)

  49. Further updates at CQ on Thompson’s relationship with Arent Fox. Seems Arent Fox registered Thompson with the State Dept as a lobbyist for foreign clients on 10 Oct 91, and rescinded the registration on 17 Sep 93, when Thompson entered the Tn Senate race.
    These dates just don’t seem to square with the “data” reported by LAT.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  50. The LA Times is already backing away from the details of this story. The only thing worse than a liar is a bad liar.

    By the way, Richardson self destructed on Meet The Press a couple of weeks ago. He is clueless although he initially looked like a more reasonable choice. Not now.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  51. That said, if Bush had not vetoed stem cell funding no doubt a Democrat in the White House would have expanded the funding, meaning yet another expansion of big government policy.

    Susan, did you even read my post at #44?

    The ESC bill he vetoed did not increase research funding by a nickel.

    Pablo (99243e)

  52. Yeah, you’re probably right.
    Fred Thompson never did lobby on behalf of a right-to-life group.

    That is obviously a skein of lies — an “MSM” conspiracy, actually — with no root in truth.

    All you have to do is consult with “Captain Ed.” Yeah, that’ll do it.

    And it’s inexcusable that our daily newspaper would not provide “evidentiary evidence” in its article on same.

    Of course, there is this:

    “In a questionnaire that he answered during his successful 1994 Senate campaign in Tennessee, Mr. Thompson or his campaign staff checked a box stating that he believed abortion should be legal under any circumstance during the first three months of a pregnancy. In a televised debate the same year, Mr. Thompson appeared to tell the moderator that he personally disagreed with outlawing abortion. “Should the government come in and criminalize let’s say a young girl and her parents and her doctor?” Mr. Thompson said. “I think not.”

    In addition, the Gannett News Service has reported that another questionnaire submitted during Mr. Thompson’s 1994 campaign contained a handwritten note that stated: “I do not believe abortion should be criminalized. This battle will be won in the hearts and souls of the American people.”’
    (New York Times, July 7, 2007)

    Oops, a little blip in your perfect neo-con, neo-racist world view.

    posted by drummaster
    formerly jmaharry
    now revealed by you to be Joel MaHarry

    (and, again, thanks for that, for opening me up to the barbs of hate.)

    drummaster (99edbd)

  53. Here we see the consequences of a Webmaster’s pressure to improve performance by deleting the list of banned IP addresses and e-mail addresses. Yes, that means that all previously banned people get another chance, by default! Even Mario G. Nitrini could post here!

    I did make an exception for m.croche, who got inexcusably personal in a recent comment. (Apparently unaware that I could get personal back if I saw the need.)

    But for the rest of you: it’s a free-for-all! As the previous comment makes abundantly clear.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  54. On the substance: I am pretty much resigned to the idea that none of our candidates will be “pro-life” to their core. What will disappoint is if they lie to me about it.

    If they tell the truth, I still think they’ll be better on judicial appointments than Hillary would be.

    By a longshot.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

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