- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold accused Republican opponent Sen. Ron Johnson on Friday of trying to politicize the fight against terrorism with a new campaign ad.

The spot, which ran in Milwaukee, Green Bay and La Crosse media markets, accuses Feingold of being weak on national security. Johnson’s campaign said it didn’t intend to run the spot in the wake of the Bastille Day attack in France, and attempted to suspend it Thursday night until next week.

Following a speech at an American Legion convention Friday in Middleton, Feingold accused Johnson of taking “cheap shots” and trying to politicize the fight against terrorism at a time when the country should be united. He said Johnson is using the fight against terrorism as “fuel for attack ads.”

“Trying to make it out like the issue here is that one of us is concerned about terrorism and the other isn’t, is false,” Feingold said. “Every American is concerned about terrorism.”

The new Johnson ad mentions the attacks at the concert hall in Paris, airports in Brussels and Turkey, the Orlando nightclub, and the office shooting in San Bernardino, California, along with Feingold’s votes on various security-related bills during his 18-year Senate career. It concludes by saying “the world is too dangerous” to elect him again.

It also refers to Feingold casting the lone no vote “when Congress gave law enforcement the tools to keep Americans safe from international terror.” The ad’s narrator does not say that bill was the Patriot Act, which passed in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

While this is the first ad from Johnson to attack Feingold, groups supporting the Republican incumbent have been running negative ads for weeks, including at least one spot that also hits him for the Patriot Act vote.

Feingold said he stands by his vote against the Patriot Act.

“I hope he runs ad after ad reminding people that I was independent enough to buck both the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership and say this bill wasn’t properly drafted, which it wasn’t,” Feingold said.

The new Johnson spot also claims Feingold “voted against authorizing our military, 11 separate times.”

The station manager for WKBT in La Crosse, Cindy Taerud, said no one had told the station to pull the ad. She said an agency working with Johnson’s campaign to distribute the ad contacted the station Friday morning and told them to stand by for revised instructions but as of late morning the station had received nothing.

Johnson’s campaign had no immediate explanation as to why the ad was running or if it would be pulled.

“The ad was already shipped and as soon as Nice happened, we made the decision overnight to suspend it until next week,” said Johnson’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger. “If Senator Feingold thinks it’s offensive to talk about his record on terrorism, he should take a good hard look at the votes he cast against our security during his 18 years in Washington.”

Johnson had criticized Feingold in June for running a new campaign ad two days after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The Feingold ad had nothing to do with the shooting and instead focused on Johnson’s votes in the Senate on trade deals.


Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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