MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks remained a focus of Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race for a second week, as Republican Tommy Thompson released another ad on the topic in the waning days of the campaign against Democrat Tammy Baldwin.
Democrats, meanwhile, continued to question Thompson's work in the private sector and on Monday pointed to a $125,000 stock payout he reported receiving earlier this month from a troubled medical device company.
The highly negative and hard-fought race for the open seat, which could determine which party controls the Senate, has attracted nearly $50 million in spending, making it the most expensive in state history. Polls show it to be essentially tied as the election nears in just eight days.
While the candidates talk in their stump speeches about their plans for improving the economy and addressing funding shortfalls for Medicare, ads in recent days have veered in a different direction and instead focused on 9/11 and Iran.
Thompson first brought up the Sept. 11 attacks last week in an ad criticizing Baldwin's 2006 vote against a resolution to honor victims. She voted nine times for similar resolutions, but didn't that year because of other language added praising Republican initiatives she had opposed.
Relatives of 9/11 victims and first responders voiced their support for Baldwin and called on Thompson to remove the ad.
Baldwin countered with her own spot accusing Thompson of profiting from the disaster after he got paid $3 million from a company that won a contract to handle health care needs of first responders. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a new radio ad Monday attacking Thompson on that.
On Sunday, Thompson released his second 9/11 ad in which he calls it shameful for Baldwin to have attacked him on that issue. The ad then says Baldwin "fought to block funding that provides body armor for our troops just to make a political point."
However, the headline shown in the ad, "Baldwin Wanted to Block Body Armor Funding for Combat Troops," was taken from a blog post by a conservative radio host. That post was itself in response to another blog post by the group Media Trackers that referred to a bill Baldwin supported that would allow taxpayers to withhold military funding.
Baldwin's campaign countered that the bill she supported would not have resulted in any overall reduction in military spending and pointed to numerous proposals she backed that would increase funding for body armor and the troops.
"Tommy Thompson has doubled down on his dishonest campaign of lies and he has ignored the voices of September 11th family members, 9/11 first responders, Wisconsin firefighters and law enforcement, and Wisconsin veterans who have called on him to put an end to his false attacks," Baldwin spokesman John Kraus said. "It is clear, Tommy Thompson has no shame."
Iran also continues to be fodder for both campaigns.
Thompson's latest ad, in addition to talking about 9/11 and body armor, also criticized Baldwin for taking $60,000 in campaign donations from a group that opposes sanctions against Iran and for voting four times against Iranian sanctions. Since entering the Senate race, Baldwin has voted twice in favor of expanding sanctions.
Baldwin last week ran an ad attacking Thompson for investing in seven companies that have ties with Iran, including one that partnered with the country to mine for uranium. Thompson said he sold stocks, worth about $38,000, from all those companies.
On Monday, Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate called on Thompson to resign from all corporate boards before the election.
Tate questioned whether corporate interests were attempting to buy the Senate seat for Thompson, a former U.S. health secretary who joined a number of private health company boards after leaving his government post in 2005.
Tate pointed to Thompson's disclosure on a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that showed that on Oct. 1 he took ownership of 1,200 shares of stock in C.R. Bard Inc., worth $126,000. The New Jersey company last year paid $184 million to resolve 2,600 lawsuits, but still has about 1,000 others pending.
Thompson had previously reported that C.R. Bard paid him $1.2 million from 2005 through 2010. His compensation included thousands of dollars in stock awards each year he did work for the company.
Thompson turned questions at a news conference about the payment into an attack on Democrats.
"It's sad in our society the Democrats have nothing credible to offer these days," he said. "They have no plans to attack America's problems. The problems facing America are not stock that I own in C.R. Bard."
Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this report from Milwaukee.