Meet the Asbestos Candidate

Although well over a year away, the 2008 presidential campaign is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in U.S. history (and can’t seem to come soon enough for most Americans). On the outer ends are straight-talking candidates such as Progressive Dennis Kucinich and Libertarian Ron Paul, both of whom have taken strong, clear positions on the issues and have not been afraid to express them in unequivocal terms. Democratic candidate John Edwards has leaned toward Progressive issues, while his Republican counterpart Rudolph Giuliani appears to stand somewhere between the far right and the middle; meanwhile, prominent centrist candidates Obama, Clinton, Romney and McCain seem willing to say whatever it takes to garner votes. And then there is Fred Thompson… Thompson, best known for his role on the popular TV series Law and Order, has also been a U.S. senator.

A self-professed federalist who says he believes in a literal interpretation of the Constitution and states’ rights over the federal government, Thompson likes to portray himself as a “Washington outsider,” implying that he is not beholden to special interests like the other “front runners” of both parties. As a politician, he made himself up as a gruff, no-nonsense “good ol’ boy” from Tennessee, driving around in a red pickup in his shirtsleeves. In fact, Fred Thompson–apparently a man with a very short memory–was a highly paid lobbyist for many years. Recently, when billionaire Bill Frist was leader of the U.S. Senate, Fred Thompson earned over three-quarters of a million dollars lobbying for a British reinsurance company seeking to shield itself from asbestos liability. The company, Equitas, is an affiliate of Lloyd’s of London. In 2004, Equitas was facing the possibility of paying out billions of dollars in asbestos claims. Equitas paid Thompson a total of $760,000 to represent its interests in Congress as several bills that would protect corporations from asbestos lawsuits were under consideration. One hopes the American people have learned their lesson from the last time there was an actor in office.