- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republicans called on Democrat Russ Feingold to pull his latest campaign attack ad against Sen. Ron Johnson, released Tuesday morning, because it comes two days after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Feingold’s ad has nothing to do with the shooting at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people and the attacker dead. Instead, the spot focuses on Johnson’s votes in the Senate on trade deals and his accepting a $10 million deferred compensation package in 2011.

And the GOP criticism came even as other campaign activity by Republicans continued. Johnson had an ad that launched last week still on the air, his campaign sent out a fundraising email not related to the shooting, and a national group looking to elect Republicans to the Senate was posting anti-Democrat messages on Twitter.

But none of that stopped Johnson and fellow Republicans from questioning Feingold’s timing.

Johnson’s spokesman Brian Reisinger called Feingold’s ad a shameless attempt to “distract from his own failed national security record after 18 years in Washington.”

“This is a time for our country to come together - not a time for the kind of callous political ambition that is everything people hate about politics,” Reisinger said.

Feingold’s ad released statewide, except in Madison, hits Johnson for accepting a $10 million payment for deferred compensation from his Oshkosh-based plastics company Pacur shortly before being sworn into the Senate in 2011. The ad’s narrator calls it a “sweetheart corporate payout,” while Reisinger said it was simply money due to Johnson for salary he didn’t take while working at the company.

The ad also references five votes Johnson made in the Senate, saying they resulted in Wisconsin jobs being shipped overseas.

Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Pat Garrett accused Feingold of having warped priorities, saying his “judgment needs to be questioned if he doesn’t pull this ad immediately.”

In response, Feingold campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said “Sen. Johnson refuses to stop airing his partisan attack against Russ and his allies continue to lob up false and misleading attacks.”

The shooting early Sunday morning in Orlando led President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to cancel a previously scheduled campaign rally in Green Bay on Wednesday. Instead, Clinton plans to hold a discussion on national security in Hampton, Virginia, with veterans, military families, and members of the defense community.

Johnson broke with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s renewed call in the wake of the shooting to ban Muslim immigrants. Instead, Johnson told conservative WTAQ radio host Jerry Bader in an interview on Monday “the best way to prevent the homegrown-inspired attacks is literally positive engagement with Muslim communities.”

Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also said there needs to be a “delicate balance” between security and constitutional liberties when considering stricter gun laws.

Feingold issued a statement after the attack Sunday, calling it “both an act of hate and an act of terror.”

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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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This version of the story corrects the first name of Pat Garrett in paragraph nine.


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