Thompson, Hovde Spar as U.S. Senate Primary Battle Heats Up
As the campaign for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat intensifies, Tommy Thompson's new ad claims opponent Eric Hovde made a 'profit from taxpayer bailouts' as a bank owner. Hovde blasts back and calls Thompson 'hypocritical.'
A day after Republican Senate candidate and former governor Tommy Thompson called for an end to attack ads in an open letter, he released an ad ripping fellow Republican Senate hopeful Eric Hovde for what Thompson calls profiting from the financial crisis.
Thompson's ad released Saturday morning, titled "Washington Games," is set on a Monopoly-esque game board with a game piece — with Hovde's photo — skipping around collecting money. Here are some excerpts from the ad:
Hovde ran a hedge fund that used Uncle Sam to buy banks. He traded on government contacts to profit from taxpayer bailouts.
Hovde gamed the system and bet against American companies and homeowners. After financial markets collapsed and families lost their life savings, Hovde bragged that he made a forty percent profit.
Eric Hovde: He wins, taxpayers lose.
The ad focuses solely on Hovde, showing that Thompson may be shifting his focus onto Hovde. Though GOP candidates Mark Neumann and Jeff Fitzgerald will be on the Aug. 14 primary ballot, recent polling data shows Thompson and Hovde leading the field by a wide margin.
The ad came one day after Thompson wrote a letter to both Hovde and Neumann, blasting both candidates for negative ads that aired this week.
"Gentlemen, this brand of politics is what is wrong with this country," Thompson wrote. "This approach was used to try to destroy Scott Walker only two years ago by you, Mr. Neumann, and now, Mr. Hovde, you are using it to tell the people of Wisconsin blatant lies about who I am, and even more, who you are."
The letter concluded: "I will defend my record."
Sean Lansing, Hovde's press secretary, on Saturday called Thompson's new ad "disappointing and disingenuous" — especially in light of Thompson's open letter. Moreover, he said, there are some inconsistencies with Thompson's claims.
Lansing acknowledged that some banks in which Hovde's asset managers invested took money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, but he said most banks, including larger ones, all did the same.
He also claimed that Thompson has personal investments in banks that took TARP money, calling Thompson's ad "hypocritical."
Hovde on Friday released an ad called "Missed Me," in which he accused Thompson and Neummann of distorting his record.
In the ad, Hovde dodges as mud is flung at him and says: "What do career politicians do? They sling mud. Mark Neumann and Tommy Thompson are slinging mud to distract from their own weaknesses."
Thompson strikes again
In another attack on Hovde Saturday, the Thompson campaign issued a press release concerning Hovde's Friday appearance on a conservative talk show hosted by Charlie Sykes.
During the show, Hovde explained that he was strong-armed by former governor Jim Doyle to make a donation to the Democrat.
Thompson's campaign said Thompson would never give in to something like that, but they also called for a better explanation:
"Hovde's latest explanation of the Doyle contribution resulting from being 'strong armed' conflicts with his own previous dismissive public accounts in which he claimed 'not to remember the contribution.'"
Farrow weighs in
Former lieutenant governor Margaret Farrow, who has endorsed Thompson, highlighted the battle between Thompson and Hovde Friday with a statement through the Thompson campaign.
Farrow's statement echoes Thompson's new ad, claiming that Hovde has been busy making money in Washington, and she goes so far as to call Hovde arrogant:
(Hovde) owes an apology to Tommy and Wisconsin for his arrogant, condescending comments.
Governor Thompson has dedicated his life to making Wisconsin a better state, and not mastering how to profit within the government bailout sector.
Mr. Hovde's arrogance is stunning, as it takes both an understanding of Wisconsin's past and present to be a U.S. Senator and a genuine humility that allows one to be a public servant.
Correction: This article originally stated that Lansing acknowledged that Hovde's banks took TARP money. This was incorrect. Changes have been made to reflect that Hovde's asset managers invested in banks that benefitted from TARP. We apologize for the error.