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Thompson: adviser with criminal past "a good man"
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14:59, November 05, 2007

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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson on Sunday defended a close adviser who a report says has a criminal record for drug dealing, but he did not say whether the man would continue with his campaign.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that businessman Philip Martin, a co-chairman of Thompson's campaign, pleaded guilty in 1979 to the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana and no contest in 1983 to cocaine trafficking and conspiracy charges. He was placed on probation.

In the ensuing years, Martin moved to Tennessee, accrued wealth with the help of prominent Chattanooga business executives and, as an increasingly prolific donor to Republicans, became a friend and confidant of Thompson.

Speaking with reporters after an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Thompson said he wasn't aware of the criminal charges against Martin until his campaign was contacted by the Post and understood that the crimes were committed decades ago.

"I know Phil is a good man. He is my friend. He is going to remain my friend. He didn't go to jail, he got probation, he's paid his debt to society and turned himself around and become a good, productive, successful citizen," Thompson said.

He said he would talk to Martin and figure out "what the right thing is," but that "I'm not going to throw my friend under the bus for something he did, you know, 25 years ago if he's OK now."

But Thompson did not give a direct answer when asked whether Martin will continue to work with his campaign.

"On the other hand, I'm running for president, I've got, you know, to do the right thing, you know, and problems occur, and I'll just have to figure it out," Thompson added.

Thompson asked Martin to raise the seed money for his 2008 presidential bid and named him one of four campaign co-chairmen. Thompson was also a frequent passenger on Martin's private jet. Campaign aides had jokingly begun to refer to Martin as the head of "Thompson's Airforce."

According to the Post, Thompson's frequent flights aboard Martin's Cessna have saved him more than 100,000 U.S. dollars.

Source: Xinhua/Agencies

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