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Romney Adviser Linked to Anti-Thompson Internet Site

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A top adviser to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears to be behind the launch of a new Web site attacking GOP presidential rival Fred D. Thompson during his first week on the trail.

The site, PhoneyFred.org, painted an unflattering picture of Thompson, dubbing the former TV star and senator Fancy Fred, Five O'clock Fred, Flip-Flop Fred, McCain Fred, Moron Fred, Playboy Fred, Pro-Choice Fred, Son-of-a-Fred and Trial Lawyer Fred. Shortly after a Washington Post reporter made inquiries about the site to the Romney campaign, it was taken down.

Before it vanished, the front page of the Web site featured a picture of Thompson depicted in a frilly outfit more befitting a Gilbert and Sullivan production than a presidential candidate.

Under the heading "Playboy Fred," the site asked the provocative question: "Once a Pro-Choice Skirt Chaser, Now Standard Bearer of the Religious Right?"

Nowhere on the site was any indication of who was responsible for it. But a series of inquiries led to "Under the Power Lines," the Web site of the political consulting firm of J. Warren Tompkins, Romney's lead consultant in South Carolina. Tompkins did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Late yesterday afternoon, a spokesman for Thompson called on Romney to fire Tompkins.

"There is no room in our party for this kind of smut. As the top executive of his own campaign, Governor Romney should take full responsibility for this type of high-tech gutter politics and issue an immediate apology," said spokesman Todd Harris. "If this is true, Governor Romney should exercise some of his much-touted executive acumen and immediately terminate anyone related to this outrage."

A spokesman for Romney's campaign said he will look into questions about the anti-Thompson site. "Our campaign is focused on the issues and ideas that are of paramount concern to voters," said Kevin Madden. "The Web site we are focused on is MittRomney.com."

The Web site was hosted by a company called BlueHost, based in Orem, Utah. Until late yesterday afternoon, a search at that company's site for PhoneyFred.org returned the following message: "Domain phoneyfred.org is still attached to your politicalnetroots.com account as Addon." The address http://www.politicalnetroots.com brings up the home page for Under the Power Lines, which lists Tompkins as "partner, consultant," along with Terry Sullivan and Wesley Donehue.

The PhoneyFred site, Tompkins's own Web site and many of his other clients' sites are all hosted on the same BlueHost server.

In 2000, it was in South Carolina that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ran into an organized effort to sully his character and spread rumors, including that he had once fathered an illegitimate black child. At the time, candidate George W. Bush was desperate to stop a surging McCain, who was coming off a stunning upset in the New Hampshire primary. Tompkins was the chief strategist for Bush in South Carolina at the time, though Bush campaign officials have always denied that the campaign was responsible for the attacks.

Staff writer Rob Pegararo contributed to this report.


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