Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

  Fred Thompson made a killing from asbestos

Republicans smitten with the candidate-presumptive, Fred Thompson, may have second thoughts when they learn that he was a high-paid lobbyist for foreign interests both before and after his term as a Senator. Americans as a whole may be appalled to discover that Thompson earned more than three-quarters of a million dollars lobbying for a British firm that desperately wanted to alter or kill the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act. This bill would have created a fund to settle all mesothelioma claims in the US, but in 2005 it died when Thompson's Republican friends in the Senate abandoned the bill. Ka-ching!

Somehow in all the hullaballoo surrounding Thompson's prospective candidacy for President, there has been only a single news report about his many years as a high-paid corporate lobbyist in DC. His most notorious success was in shaping a 1982 bill that deregulated the Savings and Loan industry and almost inevitably caused the Savings and Loan crisis a few years later. As with the equally culpable John McCain, voters may be foolish enough to forgive Thompson that hugely expensive debacle.

But how eager will they be to elect as President a former registered agent of a foreign government? From 1991 to 1993, when he worked for the Washington lobbying firm of Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn (you can locate the documentation here; his registration number is 2661), Thompson lobbied for the deposed government of Haiti as well as corporations in Germany and Japan. There may have been other foreign interests that he lobbied for as well. Thompson cancelled his registration as a foreign lobbyist only when he decided to run for the Senate.

And almost as soon as Thompson left the Senate, he registered as a foreign lobbyist again. This time he went to work for Equitas, a British company that had been created by the partners ("Names") at Lloyds of London in order to shield themselves personally from potentially steep liabilities due to asbestos related lawsuits around the world. In 2004, Equitas was trying to settle these liabilities on the cheap.

That's why they hired Thompson. The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act threatened to hit Equitas very hard, so Thompson used his influence among Senate Republicans to reduce the liabilities that foreign companies would be subject to under the bill.

Thompson was considered an effective member of the team and went into overdrive with the others in 2005 to kill a provision that would have saddled Equitas with a huge portion of a proposed asbestos settlement. Thompson usually took the lead in dealing with Frist, also talked to then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and was relied on to analyze the legislation's prospects.

In fact, lobbyists for asbestos interests flooded Capitol Hill in 2005 until the bill was buried and the way of such things.

Thompson's campaign is rather defensive about this part of his history.

Thompson spokesman Mark Corrallo dismissed such criticism as "not an issue at all." He said that Thompson is proud to have been a lobbyist and believed in Equitas's cause. "It's an honorable endeavor," Corrallo added. "He was retained to do a job, and he did it to the best of his abilities."

Well at least Equitas is pleased.

Equitas hired a bevy of lobbyists to protect its interests in the proposal to set up a federal trust fund, paid for by insurers, asbestos-makers and others, to compensate asbestos victims...Jon Nash, a firm spokesman, on Wednesday credited Thompson as having "contributed to the successful outcome."

The company paid Thompson $760,000 from 2004 to 2006, according to Senate records.

And you thought that mesothelioma brought nothing but misery and suffering in its wake.

crossposted from Unbossed

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