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Reality Check: Baldwin ad targets Thompson's ties to pharmaceutical industry

Published On: Sep 17 2012 10:20:36 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 17 2012 10:24:16 PM CDT

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin is trying to define her opponent in a tough race for U.S. Senate by running a television ad that makes Wisconsin's longest-serving governor look like he's cashing in on Washington connections.

"Tommy Thompson left Wisconsin for Washington," the announcer says in the ad. "Boy, did he. Working for George Bush, Tommy cut a sweetheart deal with drug companies making it illegal for Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. It cost taxpayers $156 billion."

WISC-TV found this needs clarification. When Thompson was the secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, he did push for the Medicare Part-D program, which is the government's prescription drug plan for seniors. Under that plan, the government is barred from negotiating prescription drug prices. Instead, private insurers that provide the plan work with the drug companies to set costs.

How much has it cost? The $156 billion number cited in the ad comes from a report put together by House democrats in 2008 saying that's how much could be saved in 10 years if the government could negotiate. At the end of 2012, we're only four years into that. Republicans charge that Medicare Part-D has already cost less money than budgeted and seniors have access to more drugs.

"Then Tommy made millions working for a lobbying firm that represents drug companies," the announcer says in the ad.

WISC-TV found this also needs clarification. Thompson did work for the law firm Akin-Gump from when he left HHS to just before he began his run for U.S. Senate. The firm represents a number of pharmaceutical companies. When WISC-TV asked Thompson's campaign whether he did any lobbying work for the firm, the campaign said he was never a "lobbyist," but rather was a "strategic adviser" in Akin-Gump's health care practice.

As far as how much money he made, Thompson has said his net worth is around $13 million. That's not to say what exactly he made while working for Akin-Gump, although he did also make some income from holding stock in the pharmaceutical industry.

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