Thompson Lobbied for Abortion Group, Billing Records Show
Billing records from his old firm show that Fred Thompson spent nearly twenty hours working with the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.
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.
Earlier this month, Mr. Thompson disputed accounts by the group’s former president and others, saying through a spokesman that he had “no recollection” of doing anything to aid the group’s efforts to overturn a rule banning federally financed clinics from dispensing information about abortion to pregnant women. At most, said Mr. Thompson’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, he “may have been consulted by one of the firm’s partners who represented this group.”
Yesterday, Mr. Corallo said the family planning group was an Arent Fox client. “The firm consulted with Fred Thompson,” he said. “It is not unusual for a lawyer to give counsel at the request of colleagues, even when they personally disagree with the issue.”
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. The billing records, along with meeting minutes from the association, show that Arent Fox was hired to help overturn the ban.
As I’ve noted from the beginning of this controversy, the issue would seem to be Thompson’s lying in denying it rather than hypocrisy. Indeed, it’s rather clear that his actual “lobbying” activity on the part of the group was rather minimal — a mere 3.3 hours. But it’s simply implausible that one would fail to recollect 22 phones calls with the woman making the accusations one is denying.
The story itself is rather innocuous; that his first instinct was to lie about it, though, says something about the man’s character. My guess is that this won’t seriously damage his candidacy. After all, most people think “lying politician” is redundant. Still, to the extent that Thompson’s appeal is that he’s not a professional politician, this hurts.
One odd thing about today’s report is that, though it repeatedly mentions Thompson’s earlier denials, it neglects to mention that he essentially admitted that he worked for the group a week ago. Today’s story, then, is not a big scoop; it merely closes the loop on the story.