Fred Thompson

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Fred Thompson represented Tennessee in the Senate from 1994-2003
This article is part of the
SourceWatch and Congresspedia coverage
of Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and
the 2008 presidential election
Main article:
  • Fred Thompson

Fred Dalton Thompson officially announced that he is seeking the Republican 2008 presidential nomination during taping of the September 5, 2007, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[1]

Thompson was a Republican member of the U.S. Senate from 1994-2003, serving the state of Tennessee. Before and after his time in the U.S. Senate, Thompson worked as an actor, most notably as the District Attorney on NBC's Law and Order. On May 30, 2007, he announced that he would form an exploratory committee to consider a run in the 2008 presidential election.

Main article: U.S. presidential election, 2008

Records and Controversies

Iraq War Voting

Thompson voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in Oct. 2002.

For more information see the chart of U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War.

Iraq had WMDs before invasion

Speaking October 1, 2007, in Iowa, Thompson "declared that Iraq did indeed have WMDs prior to the U.S. invasion. The Des Moines Register reports:

"[Thompson] was certain former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction prior to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a point of contention in the 4.5 years since the war began.
"'We can’t forget the fact that although at a particular point in time we never found any WMD down there, he clearly had had WMD. He clearly had had the beginnings of a nuclear program,' the former Tennessee senator told an audience of about 60 at a Newton cafe."[2]

Thompson blames Hillary Clinton for his "suitcase bomb" remark

"Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson blamed Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on [September 14, 2007,] for the publicity surrounding his remark suggesting Cuban immigrants are bringing suitcase bombs to the United States," the Associated Press reported.[3]

"When asked by Florida's WTVJ about the perception in the Cuban-American community about his comments, Thompson replied, 'I think that was a Hillary Clinton news release that she put out or a statement that she made trying to capitalize on something when she knew better.'

"During a trip to South Carolina in June, Thompson was talking about illegal immigration from Cuba and elsewhere and said, 'I don't imagine they're coming here to bring greetings from Castro. We're living in the era of the suitcase bomb.'"[3]

The "now-fabled rented red Chevy pickup" myth

"Fred Thompson could have traveled Tennessee in an Edsel and still beaten Jim Cooper for that 1994 Senate seat," Aaron Gould Sheinin of wrote September 18, 2007.[4]

"Take it from the first reporter to ride with Thompson in the now-fabled rented red Chevy pickup," Sheinin wrote,[4] "it has become part of the standard bio that the pickup truck turned around a campaign that was 20 points behind that of Cooper, a 12-year Democratic congressman. Good script for a movie, but it’s not reality.

"By the time Thompson hit the road, it was clear that Cooper was in trouble, despite his image as a brainy moderate," Sheinin wrote.[4]

The "not-Bush-Bush candidate"

"The importance of being Fred Thompson, so the GOP hopes, is that he can be Bush without being Bush. And, the Republican prayer goes - a not-Bush-Bush should be able to revive the long-lost-Bush 'post-9/11 world' magic and win the election come November, 2008. ...

"Thompson has acknowledged the importance of being Fred Thompson and expressed his wholehearted willingness to be the not-Bush-Bush candidate by inviting and accepting the Bush clan's help on his campaign and fundraising, by hiring all the old Bush and Cheney aides to run his campaign, by wooing all the old Bush-Cheney backers, and by carrying on Bush's talking points without allowing so much as a smidge of daylight between his stance and the presidents'," A. Alexander wrote June 7, 2007, in The Progressive Daily.[5]

Thompson linked to advice for Libyan terrorists

"A little over three years after Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland," Jo Becker wrote September 9, 2007, in the New York Times, Thompson "provided advice" in February 1992 to John Culver, a "partner at the Washington firm of Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn", "about one of his law firm’s new clients: The man representing the two Libyan intelligence officials charged in the terrorist bombing" ... "[A]ccording to a memorandum from that era written by his secretary, [Thompson] held 'discussions with Culver re: Libya' that same month."[6]

"At the time, Libya was facing international outrage for refusing to comply with a United Nations demand that the two suspects be extradited to the West for trial in the 1988 bombing, which killed 270 people. Revelations that American firms were representing Libyan interests provoked a furor among the Pan Am victims’ families. Some law firms refused to represent the country or the suspects, while others withdrew.

"The involvement of Mr. Thompson, who worked part-time for Arent Fox as a lawyer and lobbyist from 1991 until shortly before his election to the Senate in 1994, never became public. But Arent Fox’s chairman, Marc L. Fleischaker, confirmed that Mr. Thompson, who is now seeking the Republican presidential nomination, briefly provided Mr. Culver with advice about the suspects’ case, billing the firm for 3.3 hours of his time," Becker wrote.[6]

Works as lobbyist

From 1975 to 1992, Thompson worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He represented such clients as Westinghouse Electric, General Electric, and the Tennessee Savings and Loan League.[7]

By 1982, Thompson was lobbying the U.S. Congress for passage of the Savings and Loan deregulation legislation. The federal deregulation legislation allowed for additional government support of ailing S&Ls; gave U.S. thrifts the freedom to invest in potentially more profitable, but riskier, ventures; and eliminated interest-rate ceilings on new accounts. Thompson's recommendations were incorporated into the Garn - St Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982.[8]

In 1991, he began work with the Washington, D.C. firm of Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin, & Kahn, representing overseas business entities as a registered foreign agent.[9]

Over the course of his lobbying career, Thompson earned about $507,000 representing clients such as Canadian-owned cable companies and deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, according to government documents and media accounts from his first run for the Senate in 1994.[10] Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, defended the work, stating "There's nothing wrong with lobbying. It's an honorable profession."[11] John Heilemann of New York Magazine was more critical, stating "Critics point out that Thompson's aw-shucks, shit-kicker populism is more than a little bit phony...he spent eighteen years as a registered Washington lobbyist, doing the bidding of such high-powered clients as General Electric and Westinghouse, pushing for the passage of the deregulatory legislation that led to the savings-and-loan crisis of the eighties." [12]

In some cases, Thompson lobbied for causes that he would later oppose as a senator. For instance, while he led a Senate effort against "corporate welfare," as a lobbyist he represented Westinghouse in a failed bid to win billions in federal subsidies for a nuclear reactor project in Tennessee.[13]

In 2004, he again registered as a lobbyist, representing Equitas, a company created to manage the asbestos liability for Lloyd's of London. Equitas hired numerous lobbyists to protect itself from a bill which would set up a federal trust fund, paid for by insurers, asbestos-makers and others, to compensate asbestos victims. The bill failed to pass, and Thompson was paid $760,000 from 2004 to 2006 for his services, according to Senate records.[14][15]

Family planning lobbyist

"Evidence that Thompson worked for a family-planning group in 1991 as part of his little-known but extensive portfolio as a part-time lobbyist underscores how much the public has yet to learn about the former senator, who is best known for acting in movies and on TV, especially his role as a district attorney on the popular show 'Law & Order'," Janet Hook wrote July 8, 2007, in the Los Angeles Times.[16]

"In 1991, according to several people then affiliated with the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn., he accepted an assignment from the association to lobby the White House to withdraw or relax a 'gag rule' that barred abortion counseling at clinics that received federal money," Hook wrote.

Watergate and Richard M. Nixon

Citizens United / Citizens United Foundation

Thompson has been featured in a number of political films and advertisements for Citizens United and its Foundation.

In March 2003, Citizens United "launched a national ad campaign supporting Bush's hard-charging approach to Baghdad," with Thompson as the "face" for the anti-war "counter movement." In an "ad he wrote himself", Thompson said "Thank goodness we have a president with the courage to protect our country, ... What should we do with the inevitable prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of a murderous and aggressive enemy? Can we afford to appease Saddam? ... And for those who ask what has Saddam done to us, I ask what had the 9/11 hijackers done to us before 9/11?"[17]

In April 2003, Thompson made pro-war political advertisements for the Citizens United Foundation. See video clips "Courage"[18] and "Soldier"[19] posted on YouTube.

In September 2004, Thompson, "Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Michael Medved, Michael Barone and Bill Sammon among other Washington veterans" were featured in Citizens United's film Celsius 41.11 - the Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die, allegedly to "[counter] the lies and deceptions of Fahrenheit 9/11 and [provide] a full deconstruction of Senator John Kerry, the Democrat presidential nominee."[20]

A 2004 Citizens United ad (in two parts) by Thompson was added to YouTube in November 2006 by poster BattleCryForFreedom.[21] [22]

Triad Management Services, Inc.

In summary, Media Matters for America reported June 19, 2007, that a "Newsweek article cited former Sen. Fred Thompson's leadership of a 1997 investigation into Republican campaign finance irregularities as evidence that he 'was willing to buck his party.' However, Thompson shut down the investigation before Democrats could introduce evidence linking GOP lawmakers to [Triad Management Services, Inc.] a fundraising group they claimed had skirted campaign finance laws."[23]

In September 1996, Triad was involved in moving campaign contributions between Republican contributor Peter Cloeren of Orange, Texas, Texas House candidate Brian Babin, and Citizens United.[24]

2008 presidential race

On March 11, 2007, Thompson appeared on Fox News Sunday to discuss the possibility of a 2008 candidacy for president. The announcement spurred several grassroots draft movements, including a well-organized draft campaign started by a former Thompson political aide in Knoxville, Tennessee.[25]

During the interview, Thompson articulated several of his current political views. He reiterated his opposition to abortion rights, gun control, and gay marriage; and support for the Iraq War (with no withdrawal timeline), President Bush’s tax cuts, and a presidential pardon for Scooter Libby.[26]

Thompson has also been skeptical of the role humans have played in global warming.[27]

On May 30, 2007, The Politico reported that Thompson planned to enter the presidential race over the Independence Day weekend.[28]

From the campaign trail

Campaign team

At the outset of his campaign, Thompson's spokesperson was Mark Corallo, who formerly handled press operations for White House aide Karl Rove during the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial. The man who organized a Thompson conference call the week his intentions were made public, Ken Rietz, at the time worked as an executive at the PR firm Burson-Marsteller (run by Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn). Rietz had once spied on former Maine Sen. Ed Muskie's (D) presidential campaign on behalf of Richard Nixon in 1972 as part of "Operation Sedan Chair." [29]

Other advisers to the campaign include former FEC chairman Michael E. Toner (general counsel), former Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo, and Tom Collamore, a former executive at Altria, the corporate parent of Philip Morris USA. Collamore was tapped to lead the campaign, according to several sources.[30]

According to Liz Sardoti of the Ashland City Times, Thompson surrounded himself with advisers who served under former U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the weeks surrounding his announcement that he was planning for a run.[31] Among those also expected to play a role, she wrote, were Mary Matalin, a former adviser in the current Bush administration, and Tim Griffin, an ex-aide at the Republican National Committee who as a U.S. attorney in Arkansas was involved in the Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy.

George P. Bush, a nephew of President Bush, has contributed to Thompson's "prospective presidential campaign ... and signed an e-mail asking friends and associates to do the same, The Politico has learned," Mike Allen reported June 4, 2007.[32] Sources say Matalin will be an unpaid adviser and Lawrence B. Lindsey, President Bush's "first economic policy adviser and an architect of his tax cuts", "economic adviser to Bush's first presidential campaign", and a former member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, will head economic policy and "also have a hand in the campaign's broader policy formulation." David M. McIntosh, "a lawyer and former congressman from Indiana who was an official in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations," will head domestic policy. And Michael Turk, "e-campaign director for George W. Bush's reelection campaign, will take a leave of absence from his current job with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association to assist in getting the Thompson website off the ground. He may continue in a webmaster capacity for the campaign."

New additions in June 2007 included members of Thompson's foreign policy team: "Mark Esper, national security adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; Joel Shin, a top policy staffer on Bush-Cheney 2000; and Elizabeth Cheney, a former top official in the State Department's Near East and South Asia department. ... Esper, Shin, and Cheney are well known and well respected in the Washington foreign policy community and generally regarded as hawkish in their views on national security. They will continue to give Thompson's foreign policy advice as the effort becomes a formal campaign."[33][34]

Main article: Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy

Campaign finance


By members of Congress

Main article: U.S. presidential election, 2008/Congressional endorsements


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Mike Allen, "Fred Thompson finally announces run," The Politico, September 6, 2007.
  2. "Fred Thompson: Iraq had WMDs prior to invasion," Think Progress, October 1, 2007.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Thompson: Clinton Made Issue of Remark," Associated Press (NewsMax), September 14, 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Aaron Gould Sheinin "What's the truck got to do with it?" (The Politico), September 18, 2007.
  5. A. Alexander, "The Importance of Being Fred Thompson," The Progressive Daily, June 7, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jo Becker, "Thompson Linked to Work for Libyans," New York Times, September 9, 2007.
  7. Michelle Cottle, "Another Beltway Bubba?," Washington Monthly, December 1996.
  8. Michelle Cottle, "Another Beltway Bubba?," Washington Monthly, December 1996.
  9. Michelle Cottle, "Another Beltway Bubba?," Washington Monthly, December 1996.
  10. Ken Dilanian, "Past as lobbyist may play into future as candidate," USA Today, June 7, 2007.
  11. Kenneth P. Vogel, "'Law & Order' And Lobbying," The Politico, April 2, 2007.
  12. John Heilemann "The Shadow Candidates," New York Magazine, 2007.
  13. Ken Dilanian, "Past as lobbyist may play into future as candidate," USA Today, June 7, 2007.
  14. Ken Dilanian, "Past as lobbyist may play into future as candidate," USA Today, June 7, 2007.
  15. "Fred Thompson – The Lobbyist," Political Money Line, May 31, 2007. (Need citation.) See registration form.
  16. Janet Hook, "Thompson star dims on abortion issue. Conservatives are anxious after a family-planning group claims that he once lobbied on its behalf against the so-called gag rule," Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2007.
  17. Liza Porteus, "'Pro-War' Movement Springs Into Action," Fox News, March 2, 2003. Note: Thompson is promoting the Bush administration's position in his ad. See The alleged linkage of Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction.
  18. "Fred Thompson, Courage," Citizens United Foundation, April 2003; posted on YouTube.
  19. "Fred Thompson, Soldier," Citizens United Foundation, April 2003; posted on YouTube.
  20. "Citizens United to Premiere 'Celsius 41.11 - the Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die'; Documentary Challenges Lies in 'Fahrenheit 9/11', Deconstructs John Kerry," Business Wire (, September 16, 2004.
  21. "Fred Thompson, Citizens United Ad" (Part 1) (2004), YouTube, November 8, 2006.
  22. "Fred Thompson, Citizens United Ad" (Part 2) (2004), YouTube, November 8, 2006.
  23. "Newsweek touted Thompson's 'willing[ness] to buck his party' in committee investigation, but not his later reported capitulation," Media Matters for America, June 19, 2007.
  24. 105th Congress; 2nd Session. House Committee on Government Affairs; Senate Report 105-167 Part 5: Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection with 1996 FedElection Campaigns," Ordered to be printed March 10, 1998.
  25. Transcript of Thompson's March 2007 appearance on Fox News Sunday
  26. Transcript of Thompson's March 2007 appearance on Fox News Sunday
  27. Fred Thompson, "Plutonic Warming," National Review, March 22, 2007.
  28. "US actor will run for president," BBC, May 31, 2007.
  29. Ari Berman, "Thompson's Team," The Nation, May 31, 2007.
  30. Michael D. Shear and Dan Balz, "Thompson Bid Would Stir Up GOP Race," Washington Post, May 30, 2007.
  31. Liz Sidoti, "Mary Matalin among those expected to play role in Thompson campaign," Associated Press (Asland City Times), June 1, 2007.
  32. Mike Allen, "Key Bush backers rally to Fred Thompson," The Politico, June 4, 2007.
  33. Stephen F. Hayes, "Hawks for Thompson. Thompson puts together a foreign policy team The Weekly Standard, June 12, 2007.
  34. Philip Giraldi, "Neolibs and Neocons, United and Interchangeable,", August 14, 2007.


Articles by Fred Thompson

Wikipedia also has an article on Fred Thompson. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

  1. Michael D. Shear, "Romney Adviser Linked to Anti-Thompson Internet Site," Washington Post, September 11, 2007.