What did Fred Thompson's son, Daniel, do to earn the more than $170,000 that his firm, Daniel Thompson Associates, was paid from his father's federal political action committee, the Fred D. Thompson PAC?
The records suggest he did next to nothing.
The elder Thompson, an undeclared presidential candidate, left the Senate at the start of 2003. He started The Fred D. Thompson PAC with $378,601 transferred from his senatorial campaign committee.
It's perfectly legal for a former public official to roll leftover campaign funds over to a PAC and use that money to support candidates. Yet very little of these funds actually went to candidates - the bulk of the money was paid to Daniel Thompson.
Daniel Thompson did not reply to efforts to contact him.
From the month the PAC started (April 2003), Daniel Thompson Associates began drawing a monthly retainer of $4,000 for "management consultant services."
In its first election cycle, the PAC made a total of only $18,000 in contributions to federal candidates and about $8,000 in contributions to Republican committees and non-federal candidates. So, the fund spent about 7 percent of its assets on candidates and elections in its first two years - and about 25 percent on Thompson's son.
The next cycle (2005-2006), the fund gave $21,200 to federal candidates and about $27,500 to non-federal candidates and party committees - and $84,000 to Daniel Thompson's firm.
To date, the PAC has paid $176,000 to the son's firm, $46,000 for federal races, $35,000 in other political donations and $62,700 to charity. The senator's son, in other words, accounts for more than half the outlays.
PAC funds can be used to hire relatives. In 2001, the Federal Election Commission ruled that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. could use federal campaign funds to hire his wife as his campaign manager. But Mrs. Jackson was experienced in running campaigns and raising funds and had worked on a congressional staff. It clearly wasn't a no-show job.
The FEC ruled that a campaign could hire a family member "at market value for bona fide campaign services."
But it's hard to find any evidence of bona fide work done by Daniel Thompson Associates for his father's PAC. Presumably, Fred Thompson made the decision about what money would go to candidates - especially since many of them were his former colleagues.
Maybe Daniel Thompson wrote the 20 checks a year that the PAC mailed out. How much time or skill could that take? Not $85,000 a year worth.
The PAC appears to have had no office, no phone and no employees other than Daniel Thompson. Minor amounts went for spot telephone and Internet bills, and for an accountant.
And the PAC did no real fund-raising. In its four years, it raised just $700 - two contributions from former Fred Thompson associates. All other income appears to have been interest payments.
The fund did pay a nearly $7,000 to Aristotle Publishing, a company that licenses software for Internet fund-raising, including a $1,000 licensing fee in the fund's last days several months ago. The initial fees were for "conversion, training, and support."
Interestingly enough, Daniel Thompson is now a professional fund-raiser for Lawson Associates in Nashville. According to the firm's Web site, he consults with clients all over the country to raise funds for non-profit groups in their capital and endowment campaigns.
Too bad he couldn't help Dad raise money, too.