The Los Angeles Times’ Michael Finnegan reports this on the paper’s website:
Former Tennessee Sen. Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as a “pro-life” Republican, accepted a lobbying assignment from a family-planning group to persuade the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and five people familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for the former senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. show that the group hired Thompson that year.
Which produces this back and forth between Thompson’s spokesman and the group:
Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo adamantly denied that Thompson worked for the family planning group. “Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period,” he said in an e-mail.
In a telephone interview, he added: “There’s no documents to prove it, there’s no billing records, and Thompson says he has no recollection of it, says it didn’t happen.” In a separate interview, John Sununu, the White House official whom Thompson was hired to contact, said he had no memory of any lobbying and doubted it took place.
But Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family planning association in 1991, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months.
Minutes of the board’s meeting of Sept. 14, 1991, a copy of which DeSarno gave to The Times, say: “Judy [DeSarno] reported that the Association had hired Fred Thompson, Esq., as counsel to aid us in discussions with the Administration” on the abortion-counseling rule.
Former Rep. Michael Barnes of Maryland, a colleague at the lobbying and law firm where Thompson worked, said DeSarno had asked him to recommend someone for the lobbying work, and that he had suggested that she hire Thompson. He said it was “absolutely bizarre” for Thompson to deny that he lobbied against the abortion counseling rule.