Before he was elected as a tough-on-crime U.S. senator from Tennessee or played a New York prosecutor on TV's "Law and Order," Fred Dalton Thompson worked as a lawyer who argued against the government's authority to regulate drug paraphernalia or to search a boat packed with 14 tons of marijuana.
Once, two decades ago, he urged that more witnesses refuse to testify before grand juries by invoking their constitutional right against self-incrimination, boasting that "I start on the assumption that my client will not testify." And over the years, lawsuits he filed helped a state worker win reinstatement to her job while exposing a parole bribery scheme and won money for the family of a Marine pilot killed by a helicopter blade when the family could not sue the Defense Department.
The piece also reports that Thompson accepted $1.5 million in donations from lawyers over eight years. While in the Senate, the Post's John Solomon writes, "Thompson routinely voted against legislation aimed at shrinking the size of fees that attorneys could collect and rejected limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, bucking his own party."
What these revelations will mean to Republican voters, of course, remains to be seen. According to the latest Washington Post-ABC poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, Thompson is in third place among the GOP front-runners, just 1 percentage point behind Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., but 22 points behind Rudy Giuliani. The Post's article ends with an anecdote, however, that might be more damaging to Thompson's as-yet-unannounced bid for the presidency than a cozy relationship with trial lawyers. Apparently, in 1985, Thompson -- who has been accused of being too lazy to run for the White House -- was reprimanded by a Tennessee judge when he failed to appear in court on behalf a client because he was on vacation in Paris.