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Former Senator and yet to announce Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson talks to fairgoers as he enjoys a footlong at the Minnesota State Fair Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, in Falcon Heights, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
WHY WON'T FOLKSY "Law & Order" actor Fred Thompson just admit he's running for president of these here United States?

It all boils down to that pesky NBC show, and using that exposure to your best advantage. Thompson, a Republican, has dabbled in acting, lobbying and lawyering over the years, serving as Tennessee's representative in the United States Senate from 1994 to 2003.

In his twilight days of serving the country, he joined the cast of "Law & Order" in 2002 as good'ol backwoods boy and New York City District Attorney Arthur Branch. Strong character, basically a good guy who litters his speech with colorful sayings like, "My prints put my hand in the fridge. It doesn't mean I finished the Cherry Garcia last night."

Nice image floating around as we gather steam for the 2008 presidential election.

There's just one problem. While there seems to be little doubt about Thompson's hankering for landing the role of president of the United States, he hasn't actually announced anything yet. Yet, he keeps making speeches and popping up looking every inch a candidate.

And that may border on being less than lawful. Federal law allows candidates to test the waters before actually declaring their candidacies. During that time, they don't have to file financial reports with the Federal Election Commission.

But while potential candidates can raise travel and

polling money, they aren't supposed to be socking away funds for campaign use later.


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According to the Washington Post, a financial report filed with the Internal Revenue Service last month shows Thompson has raised nearly $3.5 million and had spent just $625,000.

Sounds like hoarding to us, and not something we think Arthur Branch would approve of. And it sure isn't something blogger Lane Hudson's going to let slide.

Just last week, an FEC complaint was filed against Thompson by Hudson — best known as the blogger who posted salacious e-mails Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley had sent to teen boys who had formerly served as congressional pages.

Bloggers linked to the site. News networks caught on. A year later, Foley is now an ex-congressman.

What has citizen journalist Hudson all hot and bothered now is that Thompson has been testing the waters for weeks without formally committing. Hudson thinks it's a ploy for Thompson to squirrel away some funds without government regulations.

We think Foley just doesn't understand how Hollywood works.

On May 30, Thompson asked to be released from his television duties. Everyone knew it was in preparation for his bid for the presidency. On June 1, he formed a presidential exploratory committee.

On July 17, NBC offered up their official statement on the problem of equal time considerations. See, if a station sells or gives one minute of time to one candidate, they have to give or sell the same amount to all the other candidates.

Not a problem until you factor in actors. During Ronald Reagan's political campaigns, if a station aired, say, "Bedtime for Bonzo" or "Law and Order," then the station would have to offer equal time to Reagan's opponents.

You don't need Mapquest to see where this is going.

NBC's Julie Rothman says in her statement, "If Fred Thompson formally announces his intention to run for president, NBC will not schedule any further repeats of 'Law & Order' featuring Mr. Thompson beyond those already scheduled..."

And, as Barney would say, wait for it...

"...which conclude on Saturday, Sept. 1," finishes Rothman.

So we're betting those rumors about Thompson's plans to formally announce his plans to run for office after this Labor Day weekend might pan out. Oh, and the lawsuit?

Under FEC rules, Thompson has 15 days from when the complaint was filed — which was around Aug. 22. We're thinking his response is, "Just call me the future Mr. President. Now let me cash those residual checks and don't forget to vote for Arthur, er, me."

I'm not running for anything, but you can still e-mail me at syoung@bayareanewsgroup.com, call me at 925-945-4705 or check out the blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/unscripted.