Thomas D. Bell Jr., an Atlanta based commercial real estate heavyweight, has been tabbed by the Fred Thompson for President "campaign" to serve as national finance chair, according to NashvillePost.com sources.
Bell, CEO of Cousins Properties, will lead the charge in coordinating and raising money at the national level for former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson's presidential bid. While Thompson has yet to officially declare, his entry into the race is all but certain and is expected sometime around Labor Day.
While Bell's name may not be familiar to rank and file Tennessee Republicans, he is a giant among GOP fundraisers. The one-time University of Tennessee student (but finished at New York University) is well known throughout the rarefied air of major political contributors, Republican and Democrat alike.
A review of federal election campaign finance disclosure forms by NashvillePost.com indicates that he has personally contributed in excess of $65,000 in the last few years to Republican candidates, including Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. That figure does not represent how much he has donated to political action committees or raised on behalf of candidates.
Of interest in Bell's history of political donations is that, among his overwhelmingly Republican financial contributions, in 2000 he donated $1,000 to the senate campaign of current Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards of North Carolina.
Bell joined Cousins Properties in 2001, but his employment history prior to that is substantial. He spent 10 years at the commercial communications giant Young & Rubicam Inc. retiring as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. At Young & Rubicam, he also served as chairman and CEO of their advertising arm and as CEO of Burson-Marsteller, Young & Rubicam's Diversified Communications Group.
He has also served as Vice Chairman of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., executive vice president of Ball Corporation, president and CEO of the Hudson Institute, chairman of the board for the Center for Naval Analysis, and sits on the boards of Emory Healthcare, Regal Entertainment Group, AGL Resources Inc., the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In the political arena, Bell chaired the "Committee on the Next Agenda," which focused on prioritizing issues for President Ronald Reagan's second term. Early in his career, Bell served as Chief of Staff for former Tennessee Senator William Brock from 1973 until 1976.
More recently, Bell served on the finance committee of former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed's unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor of Georgia and hosted a fundraiser earlier this month for Thompson in Atlanta. The Atlanta fundraiser reportedly brought in approximately $400,000.
Cousins Properties is a major property owner of Atlanta's skyline, including One Georgia Center, 191 Peachtree Tower, Terminus, and developed Bank of America Plaza. In Tennessee, the company has two retail properties, one in Memphis and one in Murfreesboro.
Bell did not return calls seeking comment on this article.