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Fred Thompson’s Long ‘Exploration’ Raises Money — and Confusion
Congressional Quarterly ^ | July 31, 2007 | Marie Horrigan

Posted on 07/31/2007 10:20:21 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet

There always is a learning curve when even an experienced politician runs for president. So Fred Thompson — the former Tennessee senator, actor and much-hyped prospective candidate for the Republican White House nomination — can take this lesson from the first money report for his still-unofficial campaign: Don’t publicly announce fundraising goals unless you know you are going to meet them.

The $3.46 million raised in the month of June by “Friends of Fred Thompson” sounds like a solid number. But that figure fell short of the $5 million expectation set by the Thompson camp itself.

Somewhat surprisingly, then, the questions about Thompson’s fundraising may soon turn to whether that nearly $3.5 million is actually too much — at least for an unannounced hopeful who has not yet filed candidacy papers with the Federal Election Commission and is raising money using an “exploratory” committee set up under Tennessee rather than federal law.

While the overall receipts were less than the campaign hoped, a seven-figure number is still a serious take, raising this issue: At what point are candidates required to file with the FEC and start meeting the fundraising and reporting requirements established under federal campaign finance laws?

The lesson emanating from this question, though, may be more about the impenetrable complexity of campaign finance laws than about any serious hindrance to Thompson’s likely full-fledged bid for the GOP nomination.

Thompson — better known nationally for starring as a district attorney on NBC’s “Law and Order” series than for his roughly eight-year Senate tenure (1994-2003) — filed papers in Nashville on June 1 to create a “testing the waters” committee. “In early 2007, Thompson embarked on what he calls a ‘dialogue’ with the American people, through his various venues, to determine whether there was a desire among American voters for him to enter Republican presidential race. . . . One can’t help but see that Thompson again might be hearing the call to serve,” reads the biography page of the Friends of Fred Thompson Web site.

Friends of Fred Thompson also is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a “527” political organization, so named because it is regulated under Section 527 of the tax code.

But Thompson, initially expected to officially launch his candidacy around the Fourth of July, has delayed his entry, with around Labor Day appearing to be the latest target.

These fits and starts might raise the enigma of when an exploratory committee morphs into an actual campaign — which, under law, starts a 15-day countdown for a candidate to inform the FEC of his or her plans.

Five factors determine whether an individual has crossed over from “testing the waters” to becoming a candidate for federal office, according to Paul Ryan, FEC program director for the Campaign Legal Center. Thompson appears clear on three of them: using political advertising to publish the intention to run for federal office; making or authorizing statements referring to one as a candidate; or taking action to qualify on a ballot under state law.

But on two issues — whether Thompson has raised more money than could be expected to be used for exploratory activities, and whether his months of “testing the waters” have been a “protracted period of time” as outlined by federal law as qualifying someone as a candidate — Thompson could have trouble. While Friends of Fred Thompson raised $3.45 million in June, it spent only $626,000 that month in the process of testing the waters.

“Reasonable minds could disagree” over both those issues, Ryan said.

“Federal law doesn’t say when you have to tell the public you’re a candidate. It does say when you have to tell the FEC you’re a candidate” based on the five factors, he said.

The fact that there have been numerous media reports, citing sources close to Thompson, that he is definitely a candidate could potentially put him in a bind. “To the extent several weeks ago that Mr. Thompson decided he is going to run, I think a fair reading of federal campaign finance law is that that started the 15-day clock for him to register a principal campaign committee,” Ryan said.

Luckily for Thompson, enforcement is a tricky thing. “The other side of that coin, though, is that it would be incredibly difficult to prove as a matter of law that he had decided to run then had 15 days but failed to register the committee when in fact he could come back and say, ‘No, what I decided then was not to run, and then I changed my mind,’” Ryan said.

And even if a complaint were to be filed with the FEC about Thompson’s campaign structure, investigations remain under wraps until they are resolved, a process that can take months or years.

As far as the details provided in Thompson’s campaign finance report, his strongest support came from fellow Southerners. Seventy-nine percent of the funds he raised in June came from the 14 Southern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia — with $1.7 million coming from his home state of Tennessee.

After Tennessee, the largest sums came from Texas ($337,000), New York ($195,000), California ($166,000), Florida ($149,000) and Georgia ($122,000).

Friends of Fred Thompson pointed out the money was raised without direct mail or telephone solicitations. The average donation was $370, and $772,000 of the money was raised online.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Extended News; Government; Politics/Elections; US: Florida; US: New York; US: Tennessee; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: 2008; donatetofred; electionpresident; elections; fredthompson; gop; republicans; rfr; runfredrun

1 posted on 07/31/2007 10:20:24 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

What a load of bunk. Run, FRed, Run!!


2 posted on 07/31/2007 10:39:04 PM PDT by Jim Robinson (Our God-given unalienable rights are not open to debate, negotiation or compromise!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Talk about a 'gotcha' law ... "What did he think and when did he thunk it?" ... exactly how long is 'protracted' ... and who 'expectations' of what an exploratory committee "should" do and what it "should" cost when?

Being frugal with one's unsolicited donations is clearly suspect.

but also points to why the AP insisted on calling Abraham a 'campaign manager' - the old hidden lie, but in this case they got more mileage out of the 'feathers.' I bet all they hoped for was to give some dem an excuse to file a complaint, or at least cause dissension within the FDT camp. ... Lucky them, they got everyone stirred up about Abraham himself just having any part of the operation.

And all this reminds me of the one thing Fred has going against him - being or ever having been a lawyer - even a country lawyer who won at least one good case against a corrupt parole board. Lawyers tend not to see anyhing wrong with such ridiculous vague and complex laws ... not to mention it leads them to believe that the Constitution was written in a way only lawyers can truly understand when it was in fact written so that both framers and farmers could understand it. (OTH - he has had periods during which 'got' why vaguaries of the legal system are bad news, but not entirely consistently)

3 posted on 07/31/2007 11:12:33 PM PDT by dougd
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I hope he doesn’t do a Mario Cuomo - he’s getting dangerously close to it. The presidency is not a deliberative body.

It takes decisiveness, tough skin and lots of energy - all things that are still question marks for him.


4 posted on 07/31/2007 11:18:55 PM PDT by aquila48
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To: aquila48
It also takes a self assurance not to be stampeded into a bad course of action just because 'everyone else is doing it', but choosing the time and place to act best suited to your goals, and having the right pieces in place to best assure success.

Decisiveness isn't deciding for the sake of deciding, but choosing the right time to decide after making sure all the relevant foundations are in place and ready for your decision.

As to energy, seems to me that several 'careers' - generally at least two simultaneously - is more energetic than most people ever exhibit, including all the other candidates. Too, you might want to review his recent schedule. He's generally hitting a different state, if not two different states every day.

5 posted on 07/31/2007 11:50:25 PM PDT by dougd
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
It looks like there is a method to the madness of Fred’s long presidential tease and it is an attempt to navigate the FEC rules to raise as much money before announcing as possible while playing chicken with Newt and letting the media take turns bleeding the other candidates in negative hit pieces while simultaneously taking their advertising money.

Fred knows that as soon as he announces all the media’s arrows will be aimed at him and he wants as much cash on hand to respond to it, while his opponents have already spend a significant chunk of their campaign budget.

Fred wants to have a stable war chest amassed already, so the big money will feel comfortable to jump ship from their second choices they currently are holding back on donating big money to. It’s a gambit that is risky, but a strong candidate and savvy campaign staff can pull it off.

I think Newt is trying to do this too, but he knows that he will come up short to Fred’s ability to raise money and key popular endorsements. Like in all high stakes poker games, the man, who is willing to walk away right up until the end, wins - unless the other guy isn’t bluffing. Newt’s bluffing and Fred knows it. Now Fred needs to find a couple of more aces to make sure he isn’t as well.

6 posted on 07/31/2007 11:54:56 PM PDT by anymouse
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

It is over a YEAR until the election. I would be interested in this supposed Deadline. Did I miss the datein the story or is this a nother Facts what facts story.


7 posted on 08/01/2007 1:42:17 AM PDT by marty60
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To: dougd

Thompson was second council on the Watergate Commitee. That’s what brought him into the spotlight. And for the pick and choose writer of this piece. He knows more about the Constitution than most.

I would love to see Thompson up against Hillary..(she was on the Dumocrat side of the hearings). I’ll bet shewould not be able to control herself.


8 posted on 08/01/2007 1:51:06 AM PDT by marty60
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To: anymouse

‘Fred wants to have a stable war chest amassed already, so the big money will feel comfortable to jump ship from their second choices they currently are holding back on donating big money to. It’s a gambit that is risky, but a strong candidate and savvy campaign staff can pull it off.’

Not only that, but he has fiscal, exposure and other incentives to delay. As soon as he announces, all of his TV and movie acting material will be pulled. Law and Order is quite a profitable franchise...

I think Fred’s playing it smart so far, except perhaps in the case of announcing fundraising goals. ;-)

Thompson ‘08!


9 posted on 08/01/2007 3:21:01 AM PDT by PreciousLiberty
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To: aquila48

Oh, please! Your worry points read straight out of the Hillary/Romney/Giuliani anti-Fred pieces. Talk about a question mark!


10 posted on 08/01/2007 6:17:23 AM PDT by Clara Lou (Thompson '08-- imwithfred.com)
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To: jellybean; girlangler; KoRn; Shortstop7; Lunatic Fringe; Darnright; babygene; pitbully; granite; ...
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Fredipedia: The Definitive Fred Thompson Reference

WARNING: If you want to join, please be aware that this ping list is EXTREMELY active.

11 posted on 08/01/2007 7:30:37 AM PDT by Politicalmom (Of the potential GOP front runners, FT has one of the better records on immigration.- NumbersUSA)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

So, what they are saying is, Fred has raised too much money and not enough money all at the same time?


12 posted on 08/01/2007 8:18:23 AM PDT by rwa265
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To: rwa265

Fred makes General McClellan look like Speedy Gonzales by comparison when it comes to making decisions.


13 posted on 08/01/2007 8:19:25 AM PDT by Austin Willard Wright
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

My concern is that some yahoo could file a lawsuit and the $2.7 million he has on hand could be “locked up”. By that I mean not able to be transferred to his Presidential campaign fund (whenever that happens).

We had a race in my state recently where a candidate had a hefty sum in his account for a federal office, but could only transfer a fraction of it to his run for a state office.


14 posted on 08/01/2007 8:31:42 AM PDT by Hail Spode
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

It’s August. Where is the Candidate?


15 posted on 08/01/2007 8:32:56 AM PDT by RightWhale (It's Brecht's donkey, not mine)
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To: anymouse
Fred knows that as soon as he announces all the media’s arrows will be aimed at him and he wants as much cash on hand to respond to it, while his opponents have already spend a significant chunk of their campaign budget.

The only problem with this theory is that for the past two weeks the MSM has been going after him full bore, and he really hasn't responded. From his so called lobbying to his "campaign shakeup" to his "underwhelming fundraising" they have gone after him. There have been a few press releases here and there refuting it, but the Fred himself hasn't gotten out there to refute it. That has hurt him. This kind of reminds me of 2004 Swiftboat ads that John Kerry did not respond to (thankfully in that case). That was pretty much the end of John Kerry. That time it worked out great, but will it with Fred? Only time will tell, and it may be the dog days of summer, when no one is paying attention, but that's what John Kerry counted on too.

I also think that in the back of a lot of the publics mind is the issue of his health. Does his delay have anything to do with that. I know that issue is not to be spoken of around here, but if we don't do it who will? You know Hillary has every top oncologist in the Country lined up to discuss it should he become our nominee. I think it should be dealt with now, rather than later.

16 posted on 08/01/2007 8:34:05 AM PDT by codercpc
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To: aquila48
hope he doesn’t do a Mario Cuomo

Play minor league baseball?

17 posted on 08/01/2007 8:34:18 AM PDT by RightWhale (It's Brecht's donkey, not mine)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet; Jim Robinson

I have to admit that this is getting a bit tedious.

Dump the wife and get IN THERE!!


18 posted on 08/01/2007 8:53:33 AM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, Tomas Torquemada Gentlemen's Club)
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To: ninenot

“Dump the wife and get IN THERE!!”

I want Fred to get in there on his own good time. Dump the wife???? Does that one need a sarcasm tag? She is a great asset to him. I guess you mean from the campaign but not as his wife. I hope. He wouldn’t be running without her, she is the one who gave him the most encouragement to run.

You need to see the videos from his July 30 fundraiser in Washington [posted on the daily FRead thread].

This campaign will likely be studied in political science for a long time to come. Some people jumped in 2 years before the election. I like Fred’s approach.


19 posted on 08/01/2007 9:07:10 AM PDT by hoosierpearl (To God be the glory.)
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To: marty60

One other thing to note about the Watergate committee, Fred was the one hiring the Republican staffers. Hillary was not, she was a low level staffer without significant responsibilities. IIRC she didn’t even interview witnesses. Fred probably knows things about her from that committee. In his book he never even mentions her name.

I think she worked on a report for the committee, but the senators voted on everything like that and I don’t believe they used her recommendations.


20 posted on 08/01/2007 9:11:19 AM PDT by hoosierpearl (To God be the glory.)
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To: marty60

I agree with ya...would be an interesting race, get out the popcorn!!


21 posted on 08/01/2007 12:15:14 PM PDT by FlashBack (WoundedWarriorProject.Org)
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To: codercpc
Do you internalize every piece of crap the mainstream media puts out there? Normal people don’t swat at every gnat that buzzes around them.

Thompson is keeping on message and ignoring the transparently trivial and Petty attacks the Democrat are feeding to their willing accomplices in the media. Every so often Fred squishes a bug like Mikey Moore, when it suits his own strategic purposes. I’m sure he will squash a few more liberal bugs during this campaign. And then when he is President the DDT will come out. ;)

22 posted on 08/01/2007 12:55:40 PM PDT by anymouse
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To: hoosierpearl

You are correct—she should not be running his campaign, but he ought to stay married.

Agreed that the others began very, very, very, very early.

Still, I’m impatient.


23 posted on 08/01/2007 3:04:06 PM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, Tomas Torquemada Gentlemen's Club)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

“The $3.46 million raised in the month of June by “Friends of Fred Thompson” sounds like a solid number. But that figure fell short of the $5 million expectation set by the Thompson camp itself.”

Really don’t think the Thompson camp thinks the $3.46 million fell short of their expectations since it was raised in only a 26 day period! Not bad for a person not even in the race!!


24 posted on 08/02/2007 6:02:35 AM PDT by seekthetruth
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