Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fred Thompson to Form Presidential Committee

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 30, 2007; 11:12 AM

Law and Order star Fred Thompson will make his flirtation with a White House bid official this week, forming a presidential committee and launching a fundraising effort that could culminate in a formal announcement over the July 4th weekend, the former senator's advisers said.

Thompson, who has been fueling speculation of a Republican presidential bid by traveling the country and making speeches, urged a group of donors in a conference call Tuesday to begin raising $46,000 from 10 couples each, starting on June 4, according to two participants in the call. Once the money begins flowing, Thompson will begin to hire a campaign staff and set up his headquarters in Washington and Nashville, his advisers said.

In addition, the nascent campaign is planning to launch a website in the next 10 days, according to one person familiar with campaign planning. Thompson will give a speech in Virginia this weekend and is scheduled to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno next month.

The papers Thompson intends to file on Friday with the Federal Elections Committee will allow the former Tennessee senator to "test the waters" by raising money that could be used once he declares officially, several sources said. The committee will be called "Friends of Fred Thompson."

"It allows for testing the waters, to see if the financial resources are going to be there to mount a campaign, set up an operation and continue to get ready to announce his candidacy," said one source with knowledge of Thompson's immediate plans.

Thompson's advisers have discussed making that announcement over the July 4th weekend, using the red, white and blue hoopla of the national holiday as a backdrop for the official launch of the campaign. But those plans are in flux and could change, two sources said.

Thompson has been steadily assembling a close circle of advisers, including former FEC chairman Michael Toner, former Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo and Tom Collamore, former executive at Altria, the corporate parent of Philip Morris USA.

The creation of a presidential committee will be Thompson's first official step toward entering the already crowded field of GOP contenders. National polls have consistently shown that he would be a significant force if he runs, with some surveys placing him in second or third place in the race.

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