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Thompson: Nothing wrong in lobbying

By
August 18, 2007

On the verge of joining the presidential race, Republican Fred Thompson on Friday unapologetically defended his career as a Washington lobbyist paid to influence the government on behalf of an abortion-rights group, a leftist Haitian leader and other special interests.

“Don’t confuse the lawyer with the client,” Thompson told The Associated Press.

The former Tennessee senator and actor discussed his eclectic career path, the war in Iraq and his ambitious plans to reshape the GOP during a 30-minute interview after introducing himself to Iowa Republicans in classic Midwest fashion: He toured the state fair with popular Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Any doubts that Thompson will soon enter the race were erased the moment he cuddled a baby pig and gawked at a cow carved out of butter.

“Keep your powder dry,” Thompson told Iowa Republicans during a brief speech at the fair’s “soapbox.”

The actor on NBC’s “Law & Order” plunged hesitantly into retail politics Iowa-style. Unlike Democrat Barack Obama, who a day earlier sought out state fairgoers, fried food and rides, Thompson raced through the jam-packed fair, stopping only to shake hands and chat with people who approached him.

He was formal and stiff compared to the folksy Grassley.

“Fred Thompson! Fred Thompson!” yelled a group of middle-aged fairgoers.

The TV star kept walking, until Grassley gently steered Thompson toward the group.

“Somebody likes you that much, we better go talk to them,” Grassley told Thompson.

Thompson, who plays a gruff, straight-talking district attorney, ranks second in most national polls and has crept as high as third in recent surveys of Iowa caucus-goers, who cast the first ballots of the 2008 presidential campaign.

He has been raising money, issuing policy statements, courting activists and building a staff — in short, running for president. But he is doing so under federal laws governing candidates who are merely “testing the waters,” a loophole that has helped Thompson avoid the scrutiny of other leading presidential candidates. Aides say he will formally enter the race shortly after Labor Day.

In the AP interview, Thompson said he had no regrets over any of the lobbying jobs he took before entering the Senate in 1994, including his representation of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association and deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“I have no apologies to make about it,” he said of a 20-year lobbying career that earned him at least a $1 million.

The abortion-rights work complicates Thompson’s efforts to court social conservatives, most of whom strongly oppose abortion.

Thompson, who called himself “unabashedly pro-life” despite a sometimes inconsistent abortion record, said there is nothing wrong or unusual about a lawyer representing a client with views different from his own.

“It has nothing to do with one’s political views,” he said. “Lawyering is a profession and it’s also a business.”

The influence of lobbyists is an issue in the Democratic presidential primary, with John Edwards challenging the field to forsake donations from influence peddlers. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton refused to accept the challenge and defended lobbyists, saying many represent average people.

Thompson echoed Clinton’s defense.

“Not everybody can come to Washington and look out for themselves,” he said.

Thompson’s advisers initially denied that he worked for the abortion-rights group. Thompson himself told the AP that his memory was foggy.

“I clearly did some work. I proceeded after that to go to the United States Senate and oppose them on every matter that came up,” he said.

Another client, Aristide, was widely denounced for endorsing “necklacing,” the gruesome practice of execution where gasoline-soaked tires are thrown over a person’s head and set ablaze. In September 1991, Aristide said: “The burning tire, what a beautiful tool! … It smells good. And wherever you go, you want to smell it.”

Lobbying records show that in 1991 Thompson called then White House Chief of Staff John Sununu on Aristide’s behalf.

Thompson said neither he nor Sununu recall that conversation. He noted that Aristide was popularly elected and “had the support of the United States of America, George Bush. He had the support of the Organization of American States and he was deposed by a dictatorship.”

Thompson said his work on behalf of Aristide was limited to a single phone call. “I never met with the client. I never met anybody on behalf of Haiti or received any compensation for it.”

On Iraq, Thompson said the Bush administration was not prepared for the insurgency that arose after the invasion, and troop levels were initially too low. Still, he urged voters to be patient and allow the current strategy to work, speaking in the generalities that have marked his recent campaign appearances.

“We’ve got to make very, very sure that we don’t run up the white flag when there’s an opportunity there to prevail,” Thompson said during his address to about 200 fairgoers.

He broadly outlined the principles of his campaign and potential presidency. They including making the country “stronger and tougher” to fight the war on terrorism, steering the U.S. clear of a looming economic crisis and restoring the public’s faith in a government that is “totally out of touch” and incompetent.

Thompson took aim at his own party.

“Republicans have to realize that not only do we have to do things differently and better as a country, we need to do things differently and better as a party,” he said, promising to appeal to independent and Democratic voters.

21 Responses to Thompson: Nothing wrong in lobbying

  1. VietnamVet

    August 19, 2007 at 5:46 am

    Seal is right! No point in arguing with someone that takes all their information off the top of their head, rather than citing sources, evidence, or what is known in the headlines. “It is better to be unborn than unlearned, for ignorance is the root of all misfortune.” (Socrates)

  2. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    August 19, 2007 at 7:22 am

    It appears that bryan, SEAL, and VV share more than just political thought. Do y’all share the same laptop, too?

    When called on their constant and pointless diatribes, the Left resorts to name-calling.

    BTW, I’m still waiting for someone to tell me:

    What problem did Clinton ever solved?

    What has Pelosi accomplished?

    What problem has the Left ever solved?

    BTW, if Socrates were alive today he would be in prison for illegal contact with his male students.

  3. SEAL

    August 20, 2007 at 3:05 am

    I doubt that very many know the original meaning of “neocon” as it evolved in the military. The con was the abbriviation for confront(ation). Neoon meant to believe in or advocate confrontation. Having a stong military and strategicly estabishing an intimidating and battle ready front line of defense to discourage aggression by anyone or thing percieved to pose a possible ot probable military threat. This is what the Reagan supporters claim led to and/or caused the fall of the soviets. They may be partially correct whereas the soviets failed financially (as we are doing now) and certainly having to support such a large military contributed to that.

    “Neocon” has taken on a somewhat different meaning to most now-a-days. For most, I think it has become nothing but a label to identify the hawks.

  4. SEAL

    August 19, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Second: lobbyists, as they exist today, should be abolished. The system only sets up clandestine influencing and an atmosphere for bribery regardless of any rules.

    There is nothing wrong with special interests trying to influence legislation. In fact, it is necessary. But it must be done formally, out in the open, with their proposal made public for all to see. There must be no such thing as private meetings with lawmakers. That would eliminate the atmosphere of illegallity. As I understand it, all lawmakers must verify where their income comes from and justify any “junkets” they take. There can be no such thing as plane rides. meals, or golf trips they do not pay for themselves.

    Lobbying is fine, just make it public and the problem is solved.

  5. SEAL

    August 19, 2007 at 12:53 am

    Third: Declaring oneself a member of any political party is to deny oneself their individuality. I’ve never met any “party member” who agreed with everything their party stood for or advocated. But they vote for their party’s candidate regardless? Rationalizing that they agreed with most of it.

    When was the last time anyone ever saw a candidate preform according to the party’s platform or standard ideals? But the party members vote for them, reelect them, anyway. Why? Because they are the lesser of the two evils. That’s what being a party member is in our two party system. Choosing the least ojectionable candidate. And preventing yourself from considering any third or forth candidate.

    Joining a political party only locks a person in to an obligation and restricts them to one choice, them or them. That is the wrong way to select those that will be responsible for this nation. In fact, political parties should be abolished and qualified multiple candidates allowed equal opportunity to run for offices. If they would do that and require every citizen to vote – on a paper ballot where they had to write the names of their choices – we might have something that would work.

  6. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    August 19, 2007 at 1:14 am

    Seal,

    Please try the decaf.

    Abortion stops a beating heart, as does the death penalty, and suicide. The Left loves abortion because they see it as a means of 1. keeping the numbers of the lower classes down because abortion has always been a racist policy, 2. it is the blood sacrifice on the Left’s altar of selfishness.

    The Left abhors the concept of personal responsibility. Abortion proponents wring their hands about abortion but sell it on the grounds that frees the irresponsible of doing the right thing.

    But the biggest draw that abortion has on the Left is nothing more complex than money. Abortion is a big business. And those businesses funnel money to the DNC.

    The Left is not irreligious. But rather than worshiping a “Higher Being,” the Left worships itself. Leftists see themselves as the center of the universe and nothing, not personal responsibility or even human life itself will prevent them from their lives of narcissism.

    Don’t forget that it was a Leftist, FDR, who put Americans in concentration camps in order to turn their property over to western agricultural interests as paybacks for their contributions.

  7. bryan mcclellan

    August 19, 2007 at 2:29 am

    What a shame.It appears that our friend Abduls cornflakes have been tasting rather salty lately.

  8. Bill Jonke

    August 19, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Abdul seems to me to be an advocate of Neocon yellow journalism, one who subscribes to the mindset of any number of defunct Hearst newspapers from forty years ago.

  9. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    August 19, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Bill,

    I’m not a Neocon. I doubt you can even give the definition for it.

    Secondly, the Hearst organization is alive and well.

    Third, in regards to yellow journalism…what in the name of all that is holy (I hope that doesn’t offend too much) are you talking about? Do you even know what yellow journalism is?

  10. SEAL

    August 19, 2007 at 4:59 am

    I would never engage in an argument with a blind believer. That is an exercise in futilety. As my grandfather said, if you argue with a fool then two fools are arguing.

  11. Bill Jonke

    August 18, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    One word to describe Freddy and offer an idea of what to expect if he’s elected:

    “Crony”

  12. Sandra Price

    August 18, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Sorry, but I too find a great need for Lobbyists. Not all of them represent big corporation or even big unions. Many represent what many people feel is an imbalance in one point of view over another. For example:

    I belong to Compassion and Choices which is a death with dignity group with members in all 50 states. When a man like Senator Brownback stands up demanding a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting physician assisted suicide every member of our organization reels under the assault.

    What we represent is a choice not a mandate but members of the religious right are indoctrinated that only God can direct our lives and deaths leaving millions of Americans living in terrible pain and agony. You bet we have an active lobbyist working to discover when any action takes place in the house or senate.

    Lobbying is as old as the birth of our government. If the law is broken it is when a Congressman takes money for changing or influencing his vote. The congressman should be removed from the government. Do that a couple of times and men like Delay will be out of a job before he can destroy many of our laws. He is a criminal for taking bribes. When these bribes are illegal then we can relax knowing many of our legal arguments in the house and senate can be done legally.

    This is not a Republican issue. They may have illegal Congressmen but the voters put them in, not the government. My own holier than thou Congressmen from Arizona have taken money from the Indians and Corporations and knowing they are religious Republicans, I can only believe they are guilty. It goes with agenda of all these people. They should be fired immediately.

    I realize that many here would throw out the baby with the bath water due to their frustration with both parties. It is all because our government does not enforce the rules already on the books. I had this out right here at CHB with a very loyal Republican pushing Bush 43 and said that if I mentioned any Republican Congressman taking a bribe, I should be prepared to face her in court. She’s gone now and I’m certain is hiding behind her cruel and ignorant statements.

    Being a Republican does not guarantee morals, ethics, or integrity. Don’t let their religous stuff blind you, they are as evil as anyone in politics. They were simply exposed under Bush 43.

  13. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    August 18, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Sandra,

    Your neighbor is part of a large corporation. If you own any stock, you too are part of a large corporation. Please climb down off your high horse.

    I am proud to be a Republican. My party does not advocate the slaughter of unborn children.

    I would much prefer to have a charge of hypocrisy laid at my feet than the blood of innocents on my hands and soul.

  14. Helen Rainier

    August 20, 2007 at 7:06 am

    Abdul,

    Well, bully for you — be proud of being a Republican and not advocating the “slaughter of unborn children.”

    Only problem with that attitude is that the Republicans don’t give a damn about those “unborn children” once they have left the womb.

    They’re all on their own then. That is hypocrisy in action. Care when they’re still in the womb but not after they come out.

    Yep, that’s a brilliant philosophy. Keep it up. Not only is that philosophy hypocritical but it also smacks of having the blood of “innocents” on its hands.

    I hope you are able to comprehend the meaning of that. Try thinking OUTSIDE your neat, little box for a change.

  15. bryan mcclellan

    August 18, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Right down the middle Sandra,left or right has nothing to do with Honesty in government. The people that scare me are those that label themselves other than what we all are to start with, and that is, AMERICANS !I’m proud to be one of 300 million and don’t need to hide behind party affiliation,religious belief, or brand name flavor of the month to justify my existence and position on how our nation is governed.Labels,we don’t need,true non-partisanship in government, we do.

  16. bryan mcclellan

    August 18, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Re abdul: The last time I was accused of being a baby killer was 1970,I’m not sure I like it anymore now than I did then..Ladies and Gentlemen,I think kkkarl rove has landed at CHB..

  17. Sandra Price

    August 18, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Abdul, Yes I own stock in corporations and for my entire life corporations have signed my paychecks…My benefits all came from Corporations and I was also a proud Republican until they turned sour and wanted to involve us in a religious war with Islam.

    I have slaughtered no unborns but I have worked for the freedom to allow women to determine the size of her family. This has become a serious problem because too many men walk out of their family responsibilities. I have no high horse, my friend but I have spent many years as a Hospice worker and have seen too many people being hooked up to machines pleading to be allowed to die.

    Oregon has a very successful law allowing people to choose their last days and die with dignity. We are now working on other states to have the same laws. It is not a mandate but an individual choice which I happen to believe is a right of all Americans to have.

    The GOP wants all social issues to be legislated by the Congress and in my mind, none of you have shown good judgment in your own individual lives and strut around arrogantly acting like hypocrites.

    You don’t like abortions? Keep your pants zipped!

  18. Bill Jonke

    August 18, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    The alternative action you suggested to Abdul doesn’t compute with the Christian Conservative base, as is evident with the rash of sex scandals so many of the GOP members seem to stray into.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the right to die with dignity. I also happen to contribute periodically to Planned Parenthood, an organization that is not only needed, but that does fabulous work in dealing with the reality of life, procreation and choices.

  19. VietnamVet

    August 18, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    RE: new Submitted by Abdul of the Ky… on August 18, 2007 – 1:17pm.

    If you are proud to be a Republican after all the corruption, trashing of the constitution, starting a war of choice, just to mention a few, of the things the Republican party has subjected this great nation to over the past seven years or so…well, what can I say? Looks like the only thing good you can say is your party is against abortion!

    And, as a parting shot, YOUR Republican president has the blood of thousands, if not hundereds of thousands, of innocents at HIS feet. So, to use your phrase: “…climb down off your high horse….”

  20. Abdul of the Kyber Pass

    August 18, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    I find the criticism from the Left to be quite entertaining. The Left and its political front, the Democratic Party, have never fixed a single national problem. What has Pelosi accomplished? What did Clinton ever accomplish? As for your defense of the Constitution….that is laughable. The Left is anti-free speech, anti-self-determination, anti-private property, and anti privacy. Granted, the latter does not exist in the Constitution. But since you political southpaws think it is there, we might as well mention it.

    And why is the Left so obsessed with sex?

    Do any of you know what it takes to make a profit? We have an extremely good economy right now. It is certainly better than the smoke-and-mirrors dotcom bubble economy of Clinton. Whereas you have this childish idea that Clinton made business good, you have been terribly quiet in your praise of Bush and his tax cuts. BTW, because of tax cuts, the FedGov has more money now than ever before.

    You hate private business and worship the bureaucrat. You believe that the government’s role is to be all-knowing and all-seeing and all-funding. Try making your own ways in life, not living off a meaningless governmental job, some beleaguered spouse or a welfare check.

    Do all of yourselves a favor. Go out, start a business and see just how easy it is to work for the government as an official tax-collecting entity.

    BTW, is it permissible for my union to lobby?

  21. SEAL

    August 19, 2007 at 12:07 am

    First: My life is mine to do with as I please. How can anyone think that they have anything to say about my life choices as long as I cause no harm to others? That would be setting themself up as god. What makes them think they have that right? That kind of power? If I choose to end my life, and I may at some point since I have incurable cancer, that is my decision and no concern of anyone else outside of my family.

    In the first place it is stupid to create a law that says a person cannot end their own life. There is no punishment for breaking that law. Someone who is determined to end their life cannot be stopped from doing so. One of our closest friends did just that 3 months ago in spite of all we could do to talk him out of it, lock him up with the shrinks, and try everything to stop him. Therefore, it only makes sense to allow them do it in a painless way instead of the damn mess he had to make. He left a note appologizing for that.

    The right to lifers have done some of the dumbest things I have ever seen. Terry Schiavo(sp?) is a classic example. Science said she was dead and had been for years but no, some bible thumper knows better? And just because one has a certain religious belief, how can they think they have the right to force others to obey their belief? Again that is playing god. Or saying my god is right and your god is wrong.

    What makes them think they have the right to determine who should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy. And what difference does it make whether a fetus is “alive” in the sense of “life.” The right to lifers have made that the issue in their campaign to be god. But that is a ploy to distract from the real issue which is responsibility.

    Whose right is it to choose whether or not to bring a life forth into the world? The answer must be – only the parent. They are the ones that will bear the responsibility. What sense does it make for someone who will have no responsibility for that child to be deciding if it will be born or not? Aborting is not a life or death decision. It is deciding whether or not to bring a new life into their life to be responsible for. If they are not ready or equipted for that responsibility the child will suffer greatly. We see that every day.

    This attitude that certain people and their religions have that they have the right to force others to obey according to their concepts is the height of megalomania. It’s only about power. Using or hiding behind a religion in order to acquire that power contradicts what their religion professes. That is hypocracy. But that seems to be the rule with self professed religious people.