If we’re considering the source, and we always ought to do that, it’s the conservative Washington Times, not the unbalanced and often fact-free LA Times. The story brings up Sen. Fred Thompson’s role in campaign finance reform, which I mentioned a while back as being a potential thorn in Fred’s side.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is now hovering near the top of the heap of Republican presidential hopefuls in most polls, but critics say he will begin a precipitous descent when more primary voters learn more about his record.

“I think Thompson already has peaked, especially because people are being reminded of his deep involvement in supporting McCain-Feingold,” said James Bopp Jr., a Republican lawyer who specializes in campaign and election law.

“His McCain-Feingold problem is worse than just the law,” said Mr. Bopp, a supporter of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Mr. Thompson also “signed a subpoena that cost the Republican National Committee millions of dollars to comply with, and his name is on an amicus brief” defending the 2002 campaign-finance law, Mr. Bopp said.

Amicus brief? That’s quite a bit different than giving minimal effort on a colleague’s case, and in this case it is part of a record that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny very well.

Mr. Thompson’s Governmental Affairs Committee hearings were convened in 1997 to investigate foreign contributions to the Democratic campaign that were clearly illegal under federal law. The hearings instead ended up treating legal Republican donations as part of a bipartisan scandal, a perception eventually used to justify the 2002 law best known by the name of its Senate sponsors, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat

“He subpoenaed a number of conservative issue organizations — he wanted to be even-handed after issuing subpoenas to a number of left-leaning groups and unions,” said elections-law attroney Cleta Mitchell, who advises conservative clients.

“He shouldn’t have subpoenaed any of the citizens groups in the first place,” she said. “He should have concentrated on the illegal activities of the Clinton administration and the Democratic National Committee in the 1996 election. … Instead, Thompson let the Democrats on his committee run roughshod over him and the only thing that came out of the entire effort was the record the Supreme Court used to validate McCain-Feingold.”

Mr. Thompson’s vulnerability to charges of campaign-finance hypocrisy was highlighted over the weekend, when ABC News ran an online “analysis” accusing the Republican of taking advantage of “loopholes” in federal law to avoid reporting his fundraising amounts, as other candidates were required to do by midnight Sunday.

Thompson’s look into Clinton’s 1996 campaign finance was a counterproductive flop that ended up handing the issue over to the Democrats. It never got to the bottom of all those contributions that Clinton, who was desperate for campaign cash in late 1995 and early to mid 1996, obtained from Chinese sources who eventually fled the country. Thompson won’t be running on CFR to win the GOP primary, but he ought to answer both for the 1997 investigation and for that amicus brief he signed supporting McCain-Feingold. Conservatives need to take the blinders off. As one fellow traveler put it to me earlier today, the last thing we need is to support and elect another disappointment who turns out to be a lot less conservative than implied. Eight years of that, plus the earlier four with Bush 41, are quite enough, thankyouverymuch.

I’m not saying that that’s the case with Fred. But we don’t know that it’s not.

Update: Here’s the amicus brief in all its bipartisan glory. Some parts will be hard to digest.

thompson-amicus.png

He co-sponsored that atrocity along with Mr. Maverick himself. Lovely.