Fred ThompsonPresident 2008

Fred Thompson’s Past Support for Campaign Finance Reform Scrutinized


Republican Presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) looks at his daughter Hayden, 4, as his wife Jeri looks on during a campaign stop at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, September 6, 2007.

Now that Fred Thompson is a formal candidate for the Presidency among other issues being scrutinized is his position on campaign finance reform, most notably the John McCain-Russ Feingold initiated legislation that resulted in the passage of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

His position is a problem for conservatives.

“It all gets back to pretty basic stuff for me,” Thompson said in 1997. “I think the American people look at a system where we spend so much time with our hand out for so much money from so many people who do so much business with the federal government who we are basically regulating and legislating on, and they look at that system and the amounts of money that are involved nowadays, and they don’t have much confidence in it.”

This is a position that directly conflicts with the views of many conservatives, according to Brian Darling, director of Senate relations at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. “Most conservatives think McCain-Feingold is an assault on the First Amendment and also did not forward the cause of making government more ethical,” said Darling, using the common shorthand for the 2002 campaign finance law.

And these activists haven’t forgotten Thompson’s role as an active proponent of that legislation.

“In the meetings that I have attended . . . where he’s been speaking to conservatives, it has come up,” said David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. “I think that is one area that a lot of conservatives have a lot of difficulty with him.”

Here is Fred Thompson today on the Laura Ingraham Show:

INGRAHAM: One of the things that also happened in the Senate was McCain-Feingold and it was initially called McCain-Feingold-Thompson. And of course that’s campaign finance reform. As you know Senator Thompson, the Supreme Court struck down part of that as unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. You know, issue ads that you can’t run before a general election or a primary contest, which for conservatives like me, are just an anathema to the First Amendment. And you now say that you’ve seen unintended consequences resulting from campaign finance. Would you today tell us that you made a mistake in supporting campaign finance reform?

FRED THOMPSON: Laura, ironically enough, all those things you said about Congress I added one more to. And that was the idea of people and companies and corporations, labor unions if they were allowed the way they were once upon a time, giving large sums of money to individual politicians. I don’t think it’s a good idea and then—

INGRAHAM: Well what about the issue ads?

FRED THOMPSON: Well, that’s a different story. I’ll get to that in a minute. But my main motivation for campaign finance—the issue ad thing was wasn’t even being discussed as far as I remember when the first debates were had and the first bill was proposed. It was a matter of whether or not you wanted to get rid of soft money. Bill Clinton and Dick Morris showed that you could use soft money in ways that people thought you’d get put in jail for a short time ago. So they poured it in instead of having the agreed upon limitations that historically Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, and everybody else pretty much acknowledged were constitutional because it had to do with federal elections and the idea that you don’t want to give too much money to any individual member of Congress and then come and lobby him for a bill. I mean that’s called bribery in the real world. But they kind of came in with this soft money to do the same thing through the back door so we wanted to do away with that. Now they added on something that was a mistake and that is the issue ads that you are talking about and I voted for all of it. So I support the first part, but I don’t support that.

INGRAHAM: And do you think at this point then that full disclosure of campaign contributions, what sources they come from, and I would say that unions and companies also represent people and people have First Amendment rights Senator Thompson. Again, I’m talking from my listeners and speaking for what they believe and I think right now we have an incumbency protection program in place where it’s very difficult to raise money.

Well I don’t agree on the amounts there because on the incumbency issue it was my amendment that brought the $1,000 dollar contribution limitation up to $2,000.

INGRAHAM: But why should the government set that amount, Senator Thompson?

FRED THOMPSON: I tried to get it higher.

INGRAHAM: Why should the government be in the business of telling me how much I can give to my favorite candidate? How is that conservative?

FRED THOMPSON: Well, why should the government tell a loan officer that he cannot accept money from someone trying to get a loan from him and then go ahead and give that person a loan? I mean it’s bribery in the real world. It is a legitimate function of government to tell a politician or for a people to decide that it’s a not a good idea for me to be able to give a Congressmen who I’m trying to influence a large sum of money right before my vote comes up. You can have a debate, but our country decided that was a bad idea. Historically, worldwide, you can go back to ancient Rome and you will see comments made that Barry Goldwater, conservative Republicans of times past, they’ve all agreed on a reasonable limitation. Limitations have been too low, and as I say I offered an amendment and fought to get that limitation higher. I think it’s still too low because the low limitation is an incumbent protection. Incumbents are going to get their money. You need a higher limitation …

INGRAHAM: Yeah, I just don’t like government telling me …

FRED THOMPSON: … in order for challengers to have a decent shot at getting elected.


If Fred Thompson is the “CONSERVATIVE” rushing into the Presidential race to SAVE the GOP from the “LIBERAL” Rudy or John McCain or Mitt Romney then after these statements today, how could anyone believe that Fred Thompson is a conservative at all?

Fred Thompson is NOT a conservative on campaign finance reform. He is a TWIN of John McCain on this issue.

Fred Thompson Watch: Jim Mills Quote of the Day

Fred Thompson Watch: ANOTHER Campaign Aide OUT

Fred Thompson Scores “Direct Hit on Romney”

Fred Thompson Watch: Thompson to Announce September 6 – Ducks GOP Debate

Fred Thompson to Announce for the Presidency Today

Fred Thompson to Announce an Announcement Date Today?

Technorati Tags:


One thought on “Fred Thompson’s Past Support for Campaign Finance Reform Scrutinized

Comments are closed.