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Wednesday, October 10, 2007
posted by SteveT | 7:37 AM | permalink
How about in the first few years of the “Republican Revolution?”

The Fred Thompson campaign has been trotting out a new theme (Where were you in 1994?) to try to say that he has been consistently more conservative than the rest of the field. This column will look at a number of Fred’s positions and votes from that era that demonstrate a far less conservative side to Fred.


Fresh off of Fred Thompson’s stint as a lobbyist for a pro-choice group and only one year after being quoted as saying he supported Roe vs. Wade, Fred Thompson was running for the senate as a pro-choice candidate from Tennessee, stating:

Government should stay out of it. No public financing. The ultimate decision must be made by the woman. Government should treat its citizens as adults capable of making moral decisions on their own.

In the race, the Christian Coalition interviewed Fred and that, “The talk is not good...[there are] serious concerns about his candidacy.” They viewed him as no different than his Democratic opponent on social issues. The decision to support him was based on the thought that, “...[his] conservative peers in Congress will get him to do the right thing, not because of Fred’s own principles.”

Then in 1996, Fred Thompson fought to remove the Abortion plank from the GOP platform, calling it, “a distracting issue.” Although Thompson's voting record was generally pro-life, voters may conclude that this had more to do with him representing socially conservative Tennessee than any real commitment to the cause.

Tort Reform

Once in the Senate, Fred became a stalworth defender of the trial lawyers, voting against Tort Reforms in the “Contract with America”, such as the Medical Malpractice Cap.

Aligning himself with trial lawyers … Thompson routinely voted against legislation aimed at shrinking the size of fees that attorneys could collect and rejected limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, bucking his own party. Most Republicans supported such reforms, arguing that trial lawyers routinely filed frivolous lawsuits or won unnecessarily large awards that drove up the cost of insurance and products.

Over his eight years in the senate Fred racked in trial lawyer money like almost no other Republican:

Unlike many Republicans during the 1990s, Thompson easily collected large sums of political donations from lawyers during his Senate career -- more than $1.5 million over eight years.

Welfare For Illegals

As the Republican congress was pushing to reform welfare and get more people off the dole, Fred Thompson was fighting to preserve welfare benefits for illegal aliens:

The most stark example was his 1995 vote on the welfare overhaul, when he voted to preserve illegal aliens' ability to receive federal benefits. He was one of just six senators to vote that way, joining four other Republicans and one Democrat.


Many other votes related to immigration are also troubling. Fred Thompson voted against an employment verification system:

And in 1996, as Congress considered a crackdown on illegal aliens, Mr. Thompson voted against setting up a system so employers could verify the legal status of their workers.

Other immigration related votes, include:
- In 1996, voted to remove higher fines for businesses which hire illegal aliens
- Voted in 1996 to continue chain migration
- Voted to strip legal reforms from 1996 bill
- Voted to grant amnesty to nearly one million illegal aliens from Nicaragua and Cuba in 1997

Affirmative Action

As the movement to curtail Affirmative Action was gaining strength, President Bill Clinton attempted to slow down the movement by stating it was time to, “Mend it. Not end it.” Fred Thompson helped carry water for him in the senate by voting against efforts to curtail affirmative action.

In 1995, Thompson voted against Senate amendment 1825 to H.R. 1854 (the "Gramm Amendment") which would have banned affirmative action
in the awarding of federal contracts.

Minimum Wage Hikes

Fred also voted for a large increase in the Federal minimum wage of over 20% from $4.25 to $5.15 an hour in 1996.


Once in the senate, Fred Thompson went right to work on the piece of legislation that he is most known for, the McCain-Feingold-Thompson bill. This legislation limits the ability of the national and state parties to raise money and severely restricts the ability of third party groups to influence elections. His misrepresentation of his role in this should give any conservative pause.

US Senate Investigation Of Clinton China Fundraising

From Newsweek:

“Though he'd been in the Senate only a few years, in 1997 Thompson was picked to lead a major investigation into Democratic fund-raising abuses during the 1996 presidential campaign. Republican leaders dreamed of calling top White House aides—and maybe even Bill Clinton and Al Gore—to testify about big checks from shady Chinese businessmen and rich donors buying pajama parties in the Lincoln Bedroom. GOP leaders saw Thompson as the perfect master of ceremonies for what they envisioned would be a C-Span skewering.

It didn't turn out that way. Thompson wound up losing control of the investigation, and the support of his own party, when the committee turned its attention to Republican campaign abuses as well. Thompson has said he wanted to make sure the inquiry was fair, and not just a Republican hunting party that would be viewed with suspicion by the public. But Republicans thought he was a weak chairman who was outmaneuvered by committee Democrats. The investigation fizzled and eventually shut down; Thompson was a near pariah among some Senate Republicans. Trent Lott was so furious at his friend that he stopped speaking to him. Letters in Thompson's archives show that he put in several requests for a seat on the Senate intelligence committee, but Lott blocked them.”

What Republican groups did we start investigating, “…the National Right to Life Committee, the Christian Coalition, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Heritage Foundation and Citizens Against Government Waste.”

This is amazing. Fred Thompson said that the probe needed to be expanded to be seen as fair. Imagine if the Senate Watergate Committee had set up the same standards during the early seventies, they would have had to start investigating the 1972 McGovern campaign to be fair to Nixon!

More than anything else, the two acts that Fred is best known for, McCain-Feingold-Thompson and his investigation of Clinton’s China fundraising shed a lot of light on what kind of president he would be. Upon reflection, I doubt many would view them as examples of conservative leadership.

After a careful analysis of Fred Thompson’s record from this early period it becomes obvious that Fred has not been anything close to a “down the line conservative.” This analysis does not even include many of his later problematic votes such as his votes for the Prescription Drug benefit in 2001, his efforts to reduce the 2001 Bush tax cuts and his votes for Bush’s 2001 and 2002 budgets that increased domestic spending more than 10% per year. Fred should be careful about pushing his new theme too aggressively or his own record might just trip him up.

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