MADISON (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde on Friday denounced as patently false a new attack ad by an independent group that is a client of the same firm running Tommy Thompson's campaign.
Hovde said claims made in the ad by Americans for Job Security saying a company he has close ties with accepted federal stimulus money are part of an orchestrated effort by Thompson's campaign to smear him.
Polls show Hovde and the former Wisconsin governor in a close race for the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race, which also features former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. The primary is Aug. 14. The winner will advance to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin.
Hovde's campaign on Friday questioned ties the group running the ad has with Thompson's campaign. Americans for Job Security is listed as a client of Persuasion Partners, a consulting firm running Thompson's campaign.
Hovde spokesman Sean Lansing said that connection smacks of illegal coordination. He called on Thompson to either stand behind the ad's attacks or call on the group to disclose its donors.
Darrin Schmitz, president of Persuasion Partners and a consultant to Thompson's campaign, said he did work for the group four years ago but nothing since and had nothing to do with the ad. He called Hovde's accusation "a cheap shot from a desperate campaign."
Hovde scoffed at Schmitz for saying there was no coordination.
"I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday," Hovde said. "In the world of business, if you acted like this, you would be shunned."
Neumann, when asked about Hovde's claim, called it "unfounded" and said he seriously doubted Thompson would have done anything illegal.
The ad claims the Virginia-based company ePlus took $2 million in federal stimulus money. Hovde is on the board of ePlus and describes himself as its second largest shareholder.
Hovde's campaign said that ePlus never got stimulus money directly but that its customers did.
www.recovery.gov, a government-run site that tracks stimulus spending, lists ePlus as the recipient of the money.
Hovde said the spot, one of two attack ads by the shadowy third party group against him released Thursday less than two weeks before the primary, is an example of what's wrong with politics.
"It's just sad," Hovde said. "I don't know if it's going to work for them."
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