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VOL. 122 | NO. 146 | Monday, August 6, 2007

Thompson's 'Candidacy' Draws Variety of Supporters

By Andy Meek

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HEEEERE'S FRED: Fred Thompson appeared on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in June, where he discussed his fledgling presidential campaign. -- Photo Courtesy Of Nbc Universal

Once Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson filed the first financial report due from the committee managing his possible 2008 bid last week, media coverage immediately focused on his total haul.

In papers filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tuesday, Thompson reported a one-month fundraising total of nearly $3.5 million, which fell short of the $5 million target his backers had hoped to reach. But even though his fundraising numbers give the first official look at his campaign's financial picture, the grand total isn't the only thing that's revealing.

Thompson's list of contributors - which cuts a wide swath across several fields, from the pinnacle of the corporate and political worlds to various entertainment circles - is equally significant.

The CEOs, for example, of both the Memphis-based investment firm Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. and home decor retailer Kirkland's Inc. - George Douglas Edwards and Robert Alderson, respectively - ponied up $2,300 each for the former Tennessee senator and University of Memphis graduate. So did Robert Eckert, chairman of the toy company Mattel Inc., and Christopher Demuth, president of the American Enterprise Institute.

The latter is a prominent Washington-based conservative think tank, of which Thompson is a member.

Other noteworthy contributors include former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist and his wife, Martha, who each gave $2,300, and Byron Gallimore, a Nashville country music producer who has worked often with country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Not everyone's waiting

Thompson's filing, which only covers the month of June, maintains the tax status of his so-called "testing-the-waters" committee, Friends of Fred Thompson Inc., and lets him wait until later to file more detailed campaign reports.

In remarks he made at a $1,000-per-person fundraising event at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington last Monday, Thompson mentioned his still-unannounced candidacy.

"We're picking up the pace a little bit," he said. "We're not being coy about the rollout. We're about, I don't know, three-fourths of the way there. And before long we'll be there."

When he gets "there" - which refers, of course, to the long-anticipated formal announcement that he's running, news that's expected to immediately make him a top Republican contender - his campaign has suggested he'll raise more money from supporters. Some of them might be on the fence pending the formal start of his campaign.

Last week's filing, though, shows 9,167 of them aren't waiting. That's the number of individual donors to Thompson's campaign in June. Thompson doesn't have to report his figures for July yet, which will include contributions given at several fundraisers he held that month.

A star attracting stars

With most analysis in national circles over Thompson's recent filing focused on what it means for his expected candidacy, other results of the former actor's showing in the money race have gone less noticed.

One such truism: Thompson supporters are members of eclectic, influential - and often surprising - crowds.

His IRS filing lists a $2,300 donation from Harold Huggins, identified as a sports writer for The City Paper, Nashville's free daily newspaper.

Doug Feith, a former U.S. undersecretary of defense and a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq, contributed the same amount, as did Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Dick Wolf, creator of the NBC series "Law & Order," the show in which Thompson has acted.

Tennessee's two current Republican senators are not listed in the IRS filing as having contributed directly, but staff members are listed as contributors.

Bonita Sansonetti, executive assistant to Sen. Lamar Alexander, gave $1,000 to Thompson's effort. Bridget Baird, identified as the field director for Sen. Bob Corker, gave $2,300.

Other prominent contributions came from Alfonse D'Amato, former Republican senator from New York, and former Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., a mentor of Thompson's.

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale hinted Thompson's charisma will be a boon in his all-but-certain bid for the presidency in 2008.

"He's been to my home for fundraisers," Ragsdale said. "This caused quite a commotion in the neighborhood, as all of our neighbors wanted their pictures made with then-Sen. Thompson and all the women wanted hugs.

"It was somewhat comical, as our small subdivision was flooded with cars, and people were walking over when they found out he was there."

PROPERTY SALES 56 289 2,908
MORTGAGES 55 226 2,009
BUILDING PERMITS 108 1,002 6,703
BANKRUPTCIES 42 248 1,225