Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson has been campaigning around the country using a private jet that was provided to him by a businessman and close adviser, who has a criminal record for drug dealing, The Washington Post reported on its website Saturday.

The newspaper said the businessman, Philip Martin, has also been helping Thompson raise money for his White House bid.

Martin is one of Thompson’s four campaign co-chairmen. He has been friends with Thompson since the early 1990s, and campaign aides jokingly began to refer to Martin as the head of “Thompson’s Air Force,” the report said.

Thompson’s frequent flights aboard Martin’s twin-engine Cessna 560 Citation have saved him more than 100,000 dollars because until the law changed in September campaign-finance rules allowed presidential candidates to reimburse private jet owners for just a fraction of the true cost, the paper said.

In 1979, Martin entered a plea of guilty to the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana, according to The Post.

He was charged in 1983 with violating his probation and with multiple counts of felony bookmaking, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy, the report said.

He pleaded no contest to the cocaine-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which stemmed from a plan to sell 30,000 dollars worth of the drug, and was continued on probation.

Thompson is considered one of three leading contenders for the Republican presidential nominations, along with Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

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