|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
On Christmas Eve 1994, Fred D. Thompson Jr. was out of a job. A 34-year-old self-described late bloomer, Mr. Thompson had graduated from law school just two years before and practiced law only for his father, Fred D. Thompson Sr., who was about to be sworn in as a senator from Tennessee.
“I was out on the street, knocking on doors,” recalled the younger Mr. Thompson, who is known as Tony.
But attending Brentwood Methodist Church in Nashville that night, Tony Thompson ran into the departing incumbent senator, Harlan Mathews, a Democrat. Mr. Mathews invited Tony to join him in a Nashville lobbying business, a job that would let him capitalize on his father’s new position.
“I don’t just believe in the tooth fairy,” Mr. Mathews said. “A lot of people were seeking access — not necessarily unfair access, but seeking access — so Tony was employed in a number of areas where his father had made a reputation or his father’s advice or whatever was going to be valuable one of these days.”
Now the elder Mr. Thompson, who also worked as a lobbyist before and after his eight years in the Senate, is aiming for an even higher post, preparing a run for the Republican presidential nomination. In the folksy drawl that built him a lucrative sideline as a screen actor, Mr. Thompson is presenting himself as a reform-minded outsider taking on Washington, just as he did when he campaigned for the Senate as “Ol’ Fred” the “real live country lawyer,” and cruised Tennessee in a rented red pickup truck.
But the lobbying work that Tony Thompson and another son, Daniel, did after their father won his Senate seat suggests how far the family has traveled from Fred Thompson’s early career. Not only has he parlayed his own political background into a lobbying business — a fact his opponents have seized on to challenge his outsider image — but his sons have also made lobbying a family affair.