Thompson tests the waters with PAC
Could help him launch presidential run
By Frederic J. Frommer
WASHINGTON - Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is forming a leadership political action committee, a vehicle he can use to raise his visibility should he decide to run for president.
Thompson spokesman Tony Jewell said Tuesday that the PAC, as yet unnamed, will allow Thompson to raise money and stay involved in issues.
"He'll use money from that PAC to support candidates around the country who support the issues he does," Jewell said. "He always has ideas about the direction the nation should be headed, and he has some concerns about that."
Politicians often use leadership PACs to raise their profile for races for president or Congress. Thompson, who has said he's considering a run for president, wouldn't be able to use the PAC to raise money for his own race. But the money he raises for other candidates could help him collect chits with fellow Republicans should he decide to run.
"In the last decade or so, these kinds of leadership PACs have been the harbinger of presidential ambitions," said Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "It's also a way for a retired politician to stay in the game."
Franklin said that Thompson, who also served as secretary of Health and Human Services for President Bush, has the kind of long-standing political contacts to raise money.
"But he has to be considered an extreme long shot for winning the presidency," he added. "He's been out of office for a while, he's from a smaller Midwestern state. He's been occasionally mentioned as vice presidential material, but he's not listed on the first tier of presidential candidates."
Earlier this year, Thompson talked about running for governor or senator, but decided not to run for either position. He was governor of the state from 1987 to 2001.
Asked if the PAC was aimed at helping him lay the groundwork for a presidential run, Jewell responded, "Right now he's just focused on the PAC. What comes after that we'll have to see."
Thompson isn't the only Wisconsin politician weighing a presidential bid. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said he he'll decide after next month's midterm elections whether he will make a run. Feingold has helped build momentum for a possible campaign with his own leadership PAC, the Progressive Patriots Fund.
Thompson Tests Water with PAC