There's a new first in the 2008 presidential campaign.
We've already seen the first woman candidate, Hillary Clinton and the first African American with widespread support and a serious chance at winning the presidency.
But now there's another groundbreaker: the first lobbyist candidate — Fred Thompson.
Thompson was a lobbyist for 20 years before he was elected to the Senate, representing the Tennessee Savings and Loan Association, the deposed Haitian President Aristed and the National Planning & Reproductive Health Association.
Although Fred bills himself as strongly against government interference and handouts, he also lobbied for Westinghouse in its bid for government subsidies for a nuclear power plant in Oak Ridge. After retiring from the Senate in 2002, Thompson went back to lobbying, earning $750,000 since then from Equitas, the British insurance company that wants to limit payments to the families of those who died due to asbestos exposure.
Now Fred's campaign is attracting other lobbyists, who are bundlers and donors to the Thompson campaign.
Most Americans feel strongly that a presidential candidate should not accept any money from lobbyists. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 75 percent of Americans find it unacceptable for candidates to finance their campaigns with contributions from lobbyists — and 80 percent want candidates to return any contributions they do receive from lobbyists
But Fred definitely doesn't agree with them. His promising campaign is positively overflowing with advisers and donors who are lobbyists, former lobbyists or employees of lobbying firms. Aside from Thompson, there's his wife, Jeri, who worked for the PR/lobbying giant Burson-Marsteller and law firm/lobbyists DLA Piper after she met Fred. Then there's Ken Reitz, a senior campaign adviser, who works for 360Advantage — owned by two lobbying firms Burson-Marsteller and Quinn Gillespie & Associates. Reitz is the former CEO of Burson and became famous for creating the National Smokers Alliance — a faux grassroots group opposing tobacco regulation that was funded by the tobacco companies.
Fred's first campaign manager, Tom Collamore, was a former tobacco lobbyist. He is one of the many Thompson staffers who was shown the door after disagreeing with Mrs. Thompson. Fred's chief counselor is Michael Toner, an adviser to Bryan Cave Strategies, which represents Shell Oil and other corporations. Then there's Tom Daffron, COO of the Jefferson Consulting Group that lobbies on homeland security issues. Ed Gillespie, co-founder of the Quinn Gillespie & Associates lobbying firm is also a close adviser.