The EFM Feature

Someone at the American Spectator sure does love Fred Thompson. Last week, they tried to refute our (accurate) claims that Fred Thompson ran as pro-choice in 1994 by citing Darla St. Martin (National Right to Life executive co-director) as saying she spoke to Thompson in ’94, and he assured her that he was pro-life. I don’t doubt this conversation happened, but I also don’t doubt that he was widely reported as pro-choice in ’94 and did nothing to rebut that reporting. Further, as we noted by linking to Ramesh Ponnuru’s 2000 NRO piece, in 1997 Thompson wrote a constituent letter saying, “I believe that government should not interfere with individual convictions and actions in this area.”

Sounds pro-choice to me.

At any rate, I don’t particularly care that Thompson was pro-choice. He’s been pro-life in office and is pro-life now. I was the first one to raise Thompson’s pro-choice past (not my wife–can’t a guy get any respect around here?), and I did it merely to point out that if Mitt Romney is not a “true conservative” because he used to be pro-choice, then neither is Fred Thompson. As anyone who reads this blog for more than five seconds knows, I think this desperate longing on the right for a “Conservative Messiah” is the height of absurdity. I’m glad Fred Thompson is pro-life, and I like Fred Thompson. He’s a good conservative. I just like another candidate better.

But apparently that can’t be tolerated at the Spectator, because they followed last week’s item about Fred Thompson and EFM with this “Washington Prowler” post:

A SITE FOR SORE EYES

An independent website of evangelicals that supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been using opposition research provided by the Romney campaign, as well as well as accepting funds from donors steered to the site by the Romney camp. The site does not accept funds directly from the Romney campaign.

Romney has been attempting to build up his credentials among evangelicals for almost two years, particularly since early focus grouping and polling in the South and elsewhere revealed that many evangelicals have a deep distrust of the Mormon faith.
Evangelicals for Mitt appears to be the result of the early efforts of Mark DeMoss, who operates a public relations company out of Atlanta. It was DeMoss who initially approached Romney, and who brought together many of the leaders of the evangelical movement in a meeting with Romney in Boston. From there, a number of evangelical groups began outreach with Romney. DeMoss has no direct ties to the website.
Today, the Evangelicals for Mitt operation has spent its time attacking conservative Republican presidential candidates, most recently former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and unannounced candidate, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

Thompson, who has made it clear that he does not support Roe v. Wade, and who was certified as pro-life by the National Right to Life Committee back in 1994, has continued to state that he is pro-life. But the Evangelicals for Mitt, using research provided by the Romney campaign, has been putting out information on its blog that Thompson, as well as other Republican Senate candidates, were not.

“That’s simply not the case,” says a Tennessee state Republican Party official. “Anyone who says that men like Thompson and [Bill] Frist weren’t opposed to Roe v. Wade wasn’t paying attention or just didn’t care.”

The Romney campaign has targeted Thompson as a serious threat to its ongoing political survival. Recent polls that have just begun including Thompson in surveys show him running ahead of Romney in Iowa, without his having spent a dime.
On Saturday afternoon, Thompson showed further strength by winning the Gwinnett County, Georgia Republican straw poll, receiving more votes than all the other candidates combined.

Good grief. It really would be difficult for this story to be more wrong. Apparently, the “Prowler” took his or her own speculations about EFM and just spewed them out on the screen–all without taking the time to take care of such minor details as, say, talking to us.
Here are the facts about EFM. First, although I worked with a couple of friends even as early as November 2004 brainstorming ideas about how Mitt Romney could effectively reach evangelicals, “Evangelicals for Mitt” as a group really got started as we expanded our very small circle to try to surprise the pundits at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis in 2006. As part of this effort, I raised money from a few of my friends (not from the Commonwealth PAC or through the Commonwealth PAC), brought my talented wife into the operation (she has a gift for motivation and can write better than any of us), and–surprise, surprise–Governor Romney came in second place behind native son Bill Frist. And not only did he finish second, he finished second with majority evangelical support.

Building on this success, we established this little blog and travelled to South Carolina a few times in 2006 to meet with some pro-life and pro-family leaders to discuss their thoughts about the Governor (specifically, we wanted to know how they thought the South Carolina evangelical community would react to him). All of these things were either self-financed or financed by the same circle of friends who helped in Memphis. Of course some of these same people also donate directly to the Governor’s campaign (we’re supporters, after all), but it is simply false that the Governor’s campaign (or the Commonwealth PAC before there was a campaign) funneled or “steered” us any money. We did all the steering.
Late in 2006, we met Mark DeMoss (and Jay Sekulow for that matter) for the first time. They had independently come to the conclusion that the Governor was the right man for the presidency, and they both reached out to us after reading our site. Mark and Jay are great guys, and we are absolutely thrilled they are supporting the Governor, but I’m sorry, “Prowler”–to paraphrase a great country classic, we were for Romney before bein’ for Romney was cool. (Heck, some of us were even on the case before K-Lo).

Since the Governor announced his candidacy, we have completely shut down any monetary expenditures (thank you, John McCain, for vigorously defending the right of private citizens to participate in the political process through your wondrous, liberty-enhancing campaign finance legislation) other than maintaining this blog site, and I don’t think that’s cost us anything this year.

We have occasional contact with folks in the campaign (you finish well in a major straw poll like we did in Memphis, and people will take notice), and consider many of them friends, but we operate completely on our own. They do not direct, vet, or (for all I know) even read our posts. We have met the Governor and his wife on a few occasions, and in fact these opportunities have only deepened our respect for both of them and reinforced our convictions that the Governor is the right person for the job. Mitt and Ann Romney are just good folks, and we would be honored to know them even if they never set foot on the political stage.

My favorite allegation in the “Prowler” piece is that we have been using “opposition research” provided by the Romney campaign. Honestly, I was unaware that the Romney campaign owned Google. Really, I was. Seriously though, I sometimes wish the Romney campaign spent more time on Google–there’s some good stuff there, guys.
Please allow me to provide a concrete example as to how we do “opposition research” at EFM. Continuing the Fred Thompson theme, I will disclose how I wrote my first post on his pro-choice past. I remembered that Thompson ran as pro-choice in 1994 and one day at lunch decided to track down some stories from that era. So I did something breathtakingly innovative. (Here is where those at home may want to take notes):

1. I clicked on “Firefox” (Some people try to live without a carbon footprint. This Mac-dependent family tries to live without a Microsoft footprint);
2. I watched in amazement as “Google” automatically popped up on my screen (how does Firefox do that?);
3. I typed “Fred Thompson abortion 1994″ into the search window;
4. I read the results;
5. I realized that I needed (out of a sense of public service) to warn Senator Thompson that under the new rules created by Romney opponents in the fall of 2006, that he–sadly–can’t be a “true conservative” because he was formerly pro-choice;
6. I typed a post; and
7. I hit “save.”

Now you know, good readers. We have given away all our trade secrets. You know how we formed, when we met Mark DeMoss, and we have even exposed exactly how we do our opposition research. Of course, the Spectator could have known all of this had they just called.


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