July 13, 2007



Thompson the actor
by Jim Hightower

Fred Thompson is not a gruff, straight-shooting district attorney — but he plays one on TV. Thompson also is not a political outsider — but he's planning to play one in the coming presidential campaign.

The outsider role is going to take way more acting ability than Thompson has because it's totally out of character for this longtime Washington insider. Not that he hasn't played the role in the past — when he moved to Tennessee from Washington to run for the Senate in 1993, he doffed his suit and tie, leased a red pickup truck, and drove around the state posing as Just Plain Fred.

A presidential campaign, however, is a much bigger stage, and Plain Fred is going to be revealed as the Real Fred, who has spent more than 20 years as a Washington lobbyist for billion-dollar corporations. Thompson had been the Republican counsel for the Watergate hearings, and, since then, he's not been shy about cashing in on his congressional contacts.

You and I paid for a couple of his lobbying gigs. Representing the Tennessee Savings and Loan League, he helped push through the deregulation bill that led directly to the S&L crash of the late 1980's, resulting in a $150 billion taxpayer bailout of the industry. Thompson also was a longtime lobbyist for Westinghouse, helping it get $1.7 million for it's Clinch River nuclear project, which was never built.

More recently, even while he's been a TV actor, Thompson has continued to lobby for Equitas, a British insurance giant that wants to avoid paying what it owes to people sickened by asbestos. And, last year, "Mr. Outsider" was deemed to have so many inside connections that he was tapped to help raise $5 million for Scooter Libby's legal defense fund.

Maybe Thompson-the-Actor can lease that red pickup truck again to haul off the money that Thompson-the-Lobbyist makes.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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