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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 26, 2011

Republican Tommy Thompson says Club for Growth Wisconsin "has endorsed" him for U.S. Senate

Perhaps the loudest voice in opposition to a Tommy Thompson candidacy for the U.S. Senate has been the conservative Club for Growth. The national anti-tax group has repeatedly accused him of spending too much as Wisconsin’s governor and later supporting President Barack Obama’s health care reform.

Thompson, a Republican who has said he will run in 2012 for the seat being vacated by Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl, was asked about the criticism on the ABC News "TopLine" program on Sept. 12, 2011.

Thompson called the national Club for Growth’s accusations -- made in statements, in an online ad and in a national TV ad -- false. Then he mentioned Club for Growth Wisconsin, saying:

"It’s nice to point out that the state Club for Growth, the people in the state of Wisconsin, have endorsed me and support me and say that the national Club for Growth is just plain wrong in their assertions and accusations."

We’ve already rated Half True the national Club for Growth’s claim that Thompson, who left the governor’s office in 2001 to serve as President George W. Bush’s health and human services secretary, supported what Republicans dubbed "Obamacare."

What struck us about the ABC interview was Thompson’s claim that Club for Growth Wisconsin had endorsed him.

That’s because a statement issued two weeks before Thompson’s interview by Club for Growth Wisconsin, which was founded in 2004, said the state group "shares the same economic agenda" as the national group, but is "a completely independent and separate organization."

The statement also said that under its charter, Club for Growth Wisconsin "takes no position" on federal candidates: "We do NOT get involved in federal elections."

(Conversely, the national Club for Growth says it endorses only federal candidates.)

We asked Darrin Schmitz, a spokesman for Thompson’s campaign, about Thompson’s claim of being endorsed by Club for Growth Wisconsin.

Schmitz said Thompson was referring to an endorsement from Terry and Mary Kohler, who Schmitz said are founding members of Club for Growth Wisconsin. He argued Thompson clarified his remark when he said "the people" endorsed him because that was a reference to the Kohlers as founding members of the state group.


Thompson said "the people of Wisconsin," not people associated with Club for Growth Wisconsin. He didn’t announce the Kohlers’ endorsement until three days after the ABC interview. And an endorsement by individual members of a group -- however influential -- is not the same as an endorsement by the group itself.

What’s more, Club for Growth Wisconsin doesn’t even endorse in federal races.

Our conclusion

In trying to fend off criticism from the national Club for Growth, Thompson told a national TV audience he has been endorsed by Club for Growth Wisconsin in his U.S. Senate bid.

He hasn’t been. And, under the group’s charter, couldn’t be.

We rate Thompson’s claim Pants on Fire.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

ABC-TV, Tommy Thompson interview, Sept. 12, 2011

Club for Growth Wisconsin, "Neumann vs Thompson" statement, Aug. 31, 2011

Club for Growth Wisconsin, statement about national Club for Growth statement about Thompson, May 18, 2011, Thompson for Senate campaign news release on Terry and Mary Kohler endorsement, Sept. 15, 2011

Email interview, Club for Growth Wisconsin spokesman R.J. Johnson, Sept. 20, 2011

Email interview, Thompson Senate campaign spokesman Darrin Schmitz, Sept. 21, 2011

Club for Growth, Frequently Asked Questions

PolitiFact Wisconsin, Club for Growth says potential Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson supported ‘Obamacare,’ Aug. 31, 2011

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Republican Tommy Thompson says Club for Growth Wisconsin "has endorsed" him for U.S. Senate

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