WASHINGTON -- A new ad released by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee claims that Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor now running for Senate against Tammy Baldwin, helped outsource hundreds of American jobs while working as a private sector consultant. "Under his leadership," the ad says, "companies sent nearly 1,500 jobs overseas. Technology jobs to China, manufacturing jobs to Mexico, and millions in profits for him. When Tommy Thompson moves in, the jobs move out."
While there's a certain amount of truth to this, a closer look at Thompson's private sector record shows the outsourcing case isn't as clear as Democrats would like voters to think.
Since leaving the governor's mansion, Thompson, a Republican, has worked as a consultant for at least two firms that cut American jobs and expanded overseas, and for a third firm that helped other companies move jobs abroad.
From 2005 to 2011, after serving as the secretary of Health and Human Services during George W. Bush's presidency, Thompson sat on the board of C.R. Bard, a New Jersey-based medical technology company. In 2011, the company cut 200 jobs from a New York factory, according to an account in the Albany Times Union. Scott Lowry, Bard's vice president and treasurer, said at the time that the cuts would "'improve the overall cost structure and enhance efficiency."
Later that year, Bard announced an additional 50 layoffs at the same New York factory, according to a report by the Post-Star in December 2011. The article included a quote from an anonymous assembly line worker, who said the company told workers that the jobs would be relocated to Mexico.
Bard did not reply to multiple requests from HuffPost for comment. Thompson's campaign limited its comments to a jab at Democrat Baldwin's policies and the assertion that Thompson "has been focused on creating private sector jobs in Wisconsin."
In September, Lisa Boothe, a Thompson campaign spokeswoman, offered a more direct response to questions about Thompson’s role at companies like Bard. In an article published by the Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel, she was quoted as saying, "It is important to note that as a board member, Governor Thompson is not involved in the daily operations of these companies. Rather, his role, among other things, is to provide a strategic vision to these companies similar to the roles of other directors and officers."
Of all the companies he worked for, Unisys has the most aggressive history of outsourcing.
In July 2006, the company announced that it was firing 1,900 people worldwide, and planned to add 4,200 jobs in the next two years in lower-wage countries. The following spring, the company announced an additional 950 job cuts.
Along with 3,600 job losses from late-2005 to summer 2006, the firings reduced Unisys' work force by about a fifth. An AP article at the time noted that the cuts took place amid the company's shift to "a lower-cost workforce overseas."
While Unisys outsourced thousands of jobs, records show that Thompson received only $5,000 for his work there -- far less than the millions that Democrats say he received from companies that send jobs overseas. Unisys declined to comment.
Starting in 2005, Thompson also spent four years working as a senior adviser for Deloitte & Touche, a U.S. subsidiary of the Big Four global accounting firm that provides companies and governments with auditing and financial advice aimed at helping clients become more efficient. By the company's own account, the process often involves moving jobs abroad. A Deloitte website says: "Deloitte member firms strive to make their clients' outsourcing processes as easy and seamless as possible ..."
A 2009 report from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group, says Thompson earned more than $1 million in Deloitte consulting fees from January 2006 to August 2007. Deloitte did not respond to several requests for comment.
But Deloitte is an enormous company, and it's unlikely that Thompson had a direct role in the divisions that offer outsourcing services. Mark Forman, a former member of Bush's presidential administration whose private sector career has crossed with Thompson's at several points, said Thompson's role at Deloitte mainly involved securing consulting contracts from the Department of Health and Human Services, his former employer. Forman worked for KPMG, another Big Four accounting firm that competed with Deloitte.
There's no question that Thompson has profited handsomely from his political connections. According to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Thompson has worked for more companies than any former Bush administration official.
"Tommy Thompson is the poster child for the revolving door problem," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director. "His numerous post-Bush administration positions demonstrate just how government jobs can be a springboard to more lucrative opportunities."
The ad by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee points out that Thompson reported more than $5 million in income in 2010 and 2011 and at least $13 million in assets in 2012. His net worth increased by at least $8 million after he left the Bush administration, according to the ad.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.