Tommy Thompson

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.


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Tommy G. Thompson is a former Governor of Wisconsin, and served as the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. He stepped down as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (2001-2005) after U.S. presidential election, 2004. "In taking over health and human services, Thompson [succeeded] Donna Shalala, who once worked for him as the University of Wisconsin chancellor." Thompson was replaced by Michael O. Leavitt. [1]

In 2012, Tommy Thompson announced that he would be running for US Senate to replace long-serving Democratic Senator Herb Kohl. Thompson won the Republican primary on August 14, 2012, and will face Democrat Tammy Baldwin on November 6, 2012.

In December 2006, Thompson created an exploratory team for the 2008 presidential election. [2]

Thompson "played a central role in the Bush campaign, serving as platform chair at the Republican National Convention and acting as Bush's campaign chairman in Wisconsin." [3]

Thompson, a Republican, was Wisconsin's longest-serving governor, elected in 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998. His last term was to expire January 2003.


Tommy Thompson was born in Elroy, Wisconsin. He is a former captain in the United States Army and United States Army Reserve, and holds a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Political Career

Thompson served as the 42nd Governor of Wisconsin from 1987 to 2001, when he was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). He served as Secretary of HHS until January of 2005, when he stepped down.

Thompson was briefly a candidate in the 2008 Republican Presidential primary. He dropped out after poor showings in early polls.

Thompson won the Republican primary for Senate in Wisconsin on August 14, 2012.

Early ALEC Supporter

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who served as a state legislator from 1966-1987 and then as governor for a record 14 years, was an early ALEC member and supporter. “Myself, I always loved going to these meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that ‘It’s mine,’” he told an ALEC conference in 2002. A young state legislator named Scott Walker worked with Thompson in a successful effort to pass ALEC's Truth in Sentencing bill in the 1990’s, and pushed to privatize the state’s prison systems. Those bills would benefit the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which housed overflow Wisconsin inmates out-of-state for years. At the time the bill passed, CCA was a member of ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force. Rep. Walker did not disclose to Wisconsin residents the ALEC origins of this legislation when he introduced the bill, although he later acknowledged and sought to downplay Truth in Sentencing’s ALEC roots in a 2002 interview. [2]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

2012 Senate Campaign

Tommy Thompson announced in September of 2011 that he would be seeking the Republican Party nomination to run for the US Senate seat that is being vacated by long-serving Democratic Senator Herb Kohl. He won the party's nomination in a primary on August 14, 2012.

Campaign Finances

The Treasurer for Tommy Thompson’s campaign is Diane Hendricks, the richest woman in Wisconsin, and subject of a short video clip that was widely viewed in the lead up to the recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In the video Walker makes his infamous “divide and conquer” statement in response to Hendrick’s questions about how the then-newly elected Governor will implement so-called "right-to-work" laws in Wisconsin.

General Election

As of July 25, 2012 (before the primary) Thompson's campaign had raised $2,467,185, had spent $2,114,270, and had $352,915 on hand. Thompson had raised slightly less than 35% of what Tammy Baldwin's campaign raised in the same period.[3]

Republican Primary

As of June 30 Thompson had raised the most money in the Republican field, but by July 25 his campaign fell behind Eric Hovde’s and Mark Neumann’s campaign. As of July 25 Thompson’s campaign had raised $2,463,064, had spent $2,110,148, and had $352,915 on hand. 88% of that has come from contributions, most in large contributions. 79% of his total money raised came from large contributions, and 9% came from small contributions. 6% of his finances has come from PAC contributions and 5% has been identified as candidate self-financing.


General Election

Republican Primary

Thompson’s campaign released a television ad [4] on July 13 called “Road to Repeal”.

Club for Growth launched an ad that attacks Eric Hovde and Tommy Thompson about their position on taxes.

Support and Endorsements

The Wisconsin Corn Growers’ Association endorsed Thompson. [5]

Former State Senator Dave Zien endorsed Thompson in the primary.[6]

Tobacco issues

Tommy Thompson has been linked with the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF), an organization that is strongly hostile to tobacco control and that opposes public health measures. In 1994, as governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson joined the policy advisory board of the WLF, an organization that receives funding from Philip Morris. In turn, WLF has defended PM on its issues. In one 1998 example, the WLF ran a highly inflammatory, pro-tobacco advertisement in several large papers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the National Journal, the CongressDaily AM, and others. Easily recognizeable in the article are many of the tobacco industry's arguments (freedom of speech, the Bill of Rights, "slippery slope" arguments about enacting "prohibition" as well as emotion-laden phrases like "anti-tobacco zealots"). In addition to running this type of ad, the WLF has also repeatedly sued government agencies that oversee public health functions, like the Food and Drug Administration and the Enivronmental Protection Agency, who WLF sued over workplace smoking policies.

Corporate Connections

"The former Wisconsin governor was forced to sell his stock in drugmakers Merck and Abbott Laboratories once he was confirmed as health and human services secretary. But he reportedly kept the $15,000 to $50,000 worth of stock he owned in AOL Time Warner and General Electric because they weren’t considered a conflict of interest. Thompson also raised some eyebrows over his close relationship with Philip Morris. He sold his stock in the tobacco giant (worth between $15,000 and $50,000), but as governor, he accepted more than $72,000 in campaign donations from the company, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Philip Morris also subsidized a number of Thompson’s international trips to promote free trade. Thompson was appointed to the board of Amtrak by former Presidents Bush and Clinton. Amtrak regularly fights for increased government funding, despite Congress’ request that the railroad wean itself from government subsidies." Source:


  • "Secretary Thompson has dedicated his professional life to public service, most recently serving as governor of Wisconsin from 1987 through 2000. Secretary Thompson made state history when he was re-elected to office for a third term in 1994 and a fourth term in 1998. Secretary Thompson began his career in public service in 1966 as a representative in Wisconsin's state Assembly. He was elected assistant Assembly minority leader in 1973 and Assembly minority leader in 1981. Secretary Thompson received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison." Source:Official Government Bio.
  • "TOMMY G. THOMPSON was born in Elroy, Wisconsin. He received his bachelor's degree in political science in 1963 and his law degree in 1966 from the University of Wisconsin. He is a former Army captain and a former member of the U.S. Army Reserve. Thompson was first elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 1966 and was elected assistant minority leader in 1973. In 1981 he was elected Republican floor leader. He is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Juneau County Bar Association, the Juneau County Republican Party, and St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Governor Thompson is the recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council's 1991 Thomas Jefferson Award, City and State magazine's 'Most Valuable Public Official' award, The Free Congress Foundation's 'Governance Award,' Governing magazine's 1997 'Public Official of the Year Award,' the American Legion's 1998 'National Award for Americanism,' and the 1998 'Horatio Alger Award.' Governor Thompson is the chairman of the Amtrak Board of Governors and co-chair of ACHIEVE, a resource center for Governors and business leaders on academic standards, assessment, accountability, and technology. The Governor has served as chairman of the National Governors' Association, the Council of State Governments, the Republican Governors Association, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Midwestern Governors' Conference and the USTR Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee. Governor Thompson is also a member of the Export/Import Bank Chairman's Advisory Board, the Inter-American Dialogue, and the National Education Goals Panel. He currently serves on NGA's Executive Committee." --Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson's Profile.

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