NYT: Billing records show Fred did lobby for abortion group; Update: Pro-Fred blogger apologizes to LA Times

Patterico beat me to the punch. What on earth was Mark Corallo thinking when he told the LA Times no way nuh uh never happened when he didn’t know that for a fact? Did the campaign even think to check the billing records? If not, or if they couldn’t, then why not just spin it in a more fact-friendly way from the outset? E.g., “He didn’t really want to lobby for them but he was new at the firm and felt obliged to do whatever they asked at first” or “His profound moral opposition to abortion didn’t calcify until he reached the Senate, as his voting record bears out.” Now, instead, they look like liars. Flashback:

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…

Corallo, the spokesman for Thompson, was asked Friday about the board minutes and the five people who said they recalled Thompson accepting the lobbying assignment. He responded in an e-mail, saying that Thompson “may have been consulted by one of [his] firm’s partners who represented this group in 1991.”

Corallo said it was “not unusual for one lawyer on one side of an issue to be asked to give advice to colleagues for clients who engage in conduct or activities with which they personally disagree.”

And now compare today’s Times:

Billing records show that former Senator Fred Thompson spent nearly 20 hours working as a lobbyist on behalf of a group seeking to ease restrictive federal rules on abortion counseling in the 1990s, even though he recently said he did not recall doing any work for the organization.

According to records from Arent Fox, the law firm based in Washington where Mr. Thompson worked part-time from 1991 to 1994, he charged the organization, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, about $5,000 for work he did in 1991 and 1992. The records show that Mr. Thompson, a probable Republican candidate for president in 2008, spent much of that time in telephone conferences with the president of the group, and on three occasions he reported lobbying administration officials on its behalf…

The billing records from Arent Fox show that Mr. Thompson, who charged about $250 an hour, spoke 22 times with Judith DeSarno, who was then president of the family planning group. In addition, he lobbied “administration officials” for a total of 3.3 hours, the records show, although they do not specify which officials he met with or what was said.

Patterico notes that Fred himself was careful all along to use the “lawyers don’t always agree with their clients” defense — which is weak in the context of an issue as morally important to the base as this one but beats lying, at least — and Corallo backed off his earlier blanket denial a few days after the LAT story broke, telling Politico, “He has no recollection of doing any work for this group. And since he was of counsel and not a member of the firm, it was not unusual for the firm’s partners to trot their clients in to meet him, get his views and even some advice.” (As Patterico notes, incredulously, they trotted people in for 19 hours?) But meanwhile, a meaningless story that should have been defused the first day suddenly has oxygen again 11 days later. And his third-tier opponents, at least, are already taking advantage.

Eh, I doubt it’ll matter. Pro-lifers have nowhere else to go realistically among the top candidates. Still, as Patterico says, “To me, the controversy over Fred Thompson’s alleged lobbying for an abortion rights group has little to do with his views on abortion, and more to do with his honesty.” Exit question: Does it? Or does it prove what his aides have been saying about the campaign not being ready for primetime yet, which is why they need to wait a while longer to declare? (Shortly after Labor Day, according to the Times.)

Update: Fred 29, Rudy 28.

Update: Nice job here by Joe Carter. He’s gone and violated the 12th Commandment — on the “Blogs For Fred” site, no less!

[T]hose of us on the front lines of the campaign are putting our integrity on the line whenever we defend our (still unannounced) candidate. When a spokesman for Thompson speaks on his behalf, we need to be able to trust that the message is honest and accurate. It also needs to be conveyed clearly, and not require the nuance of a DC lawyer to differentiate between fact and supposition.

I claimed that the LAT article was a “hit piece”, when the basic premise was later confirmed to be true. I implied that that the people from NFPRHA might be lying, only to find that their central claim–that Thompson lobbied for the group–was largely true. I may not agree with their motives, but it was wrong of me to unfairly malign the LAT and the NFPRHA leaders. I owe them both an apology.

I don’t like being wrong. I don’t like having to apologize to abortion advocates. And I really don’t like finding I put my own integrity in question.

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