Washington Prowler

Making Waves

Democrats lie low. Vitter and who else? McCain rediscovers coach. Thompson's single-call lobbying.

By 7.16.07

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PLAY POSSUM PELOSI
With the August Congressional recess right around the corner, Democrat House and Senate leaders are pressing their caucuses hard not to "make waves" in the coming days.

"Our leadership doesn't want us to add grease to any fires," says a moderate Democrat House member. "They're more than willing to let Conyers and the other committees doing investigations throwing red meat to our base, but they don't want anything else to make news. They're more afraid of being a 'do something' Congress than a 'do nothing' Congress."

Quietly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is attempting to organize a series of international trips during August to undercut the Bush Administration's foreign policy, but has been trying to clear the calendar of any major legislative action, hoping that the fall session, with major moves on Iraq in play, will bring a wealth of pro-Democrat momentum.

PHONE SEX
Word is that lawyers from NBC have been working behind the scenes with the so-called "Washington Madam," whose phone records recently ensnared Louisiana Sen. David Vitter. It's not clear why, given that ABC News had been the prime news source for the documents, and the madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, recently posted a number of documents on the Internet after the judge's injunction was lifted.

"Office scuttlebutt is that it's not so much the documents, but some phone numbers that are in the documents that have their attention," says an NBC News employee in New York. "That's all we're hearing."

GOOD AS FEINGOLD
Sen. John McCain's campaign may, in fact, be deeper in the hole than previously reported. Recent reports place McCain's campaign finance figures at about $250,000 cash on hand, and about $1 million in debt. But staff that have left the campaign in recent days say that they have heard the campaign could be as much as $5 million in debt.

McCain is no longer flying on private jets. Instead, he's flying commercial, and focusing his attention on New Hampshire and South Carolina.

SINGLE CALL LOBBYIST
Former Sen. Fred Thompson's loose relationship with a Washington, D.C. law firm is opening the door to mischief making, and apparently the campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is so broke that it has to recycle old news on obscure websites to try to do damage to other candidates. On a "new" (it went live on Saturday, July 14), "independent" blog entitled "blogoftubes," the unknown blogger "breaks" news that Thompson "lobbied" for former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

This lobbying story, part of an opposition research file that is being distributed by other campaigns, has been fully vetted and reported on for years in the Tennessee and national press.

Thompson in previous statements made clear that his involvement with Haiti and Aristide consisted of a single phone call made in December 1991. The call was made by Thompson to the George H. W. Bush White House to encourage them to keep up the Haitian embargo, which the Administration (along with the Democrat Congress, as well as the United Nations) had imposed after Aristide, then the first democratically elected president of the country after the downfall of the Papa Doc Duvalier, had fled to exile.

Thompson has previously said that the call was made at the request of a law partner at Arent Fox in Washington, D.C. The firm was representing the Haitian government, but Thompson was not a member of the firm. Rather, he was "of counsel," meaning that he used office space there, but was not a partner.

Thompson made the call and that was the end of his "lobbying." Thompson says he was not paid for his minutes of work.

It was reported last week that the Los Angeles Times, fresh from its hit piece attempting to link Thompson to a pro-abortion group client of Arent Fox, is now attempting to link Thompson to another Arent Fox client, the government of Chile.

As with Haiti, Chile was never a client of Thompson's. Thompson has never denied the phone call on behalf of Aristide, or that he did work on behalf of Arent Fox. "There's just no story here," says a Thompson supporter, familiar with the situation.

"The fact is that Thompson didn't have a ton of lobbying clients. And he had what can only be described as a 'casual' relationship with that Washington law firm. On one hand, it makes it easier for us to paint him with a broad brush," says a freelance researcher who has done opposition research for the Republican National Committee and is now doing work for a rival presidential campaign. "But there are only about three stories worth pursuing, and we just repackage them and blast them out. We pushed the Aristide thing out three months ago and I guess others are going to try to use it."

Former Arent Fox partner, now head of an anti-gun owner organization, the former Democrat congressman Michael Barnes, appears to be the nexus of all the stories coming out of Arent Fox. He was the partner who asked Thompson to make the call on behalf of Haiti (in 1994 press reports about Aristide, Barnes was identified as the Haitian leader's "top adviser"), and he was the partner who linked Thompson to the pro-abortion group run by Barnes' former chief of staff.

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