Tommy George Thompson (born November 19, 1941), a United States politician, was the 7th U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and the 42nd Governor of Wisconsin.
Thompson was born in Elroy, Wisconsin, where his father ran a gas station and country grocery store. His brother, Ed Thompson, was the Libertarian candidate in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Tommy Thompson began his career in politics in 1966 as a representative in the Wisconsin State Assembly, after earning his law degree at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Governor of Wisconsin
From 1987 to 2001, Thompson served as the 42nd Governor of Wisconsin, having been elected to an unprecedented four terms.
Thompson's most noted initiatives during his nearly 14 years as governor of Wisconsin were his Wisconsin Works welfare reform and school choice programs. In 1990, Thompson enacted the nation's first parental school-choice program, allowing low-income Milwaukee families to send children to the private or public school of their choice. He also created the BadgerCare program, designed to provide health coverage to those families whose employers don't provide health insurance but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Through the federal waiver program, Thompson helped replicate this program in several states when he became Secretary of Health and Human Services.
As Wisconsin's chief executive, he held leadership positions in several national and regional organizations. From 1998 to 1999, he served as president of the CSG and, with the organization's chairman, Senator Kenneth McClintock, the nonvoting member from Puerto Rico, led a top-level delegation to the People's Republic of China. An avid motorcyclist, Thompson was known to encourage colleagues to join him on motorcycle tours of Wisconsin whenever he and his wife, Sue Ann, hosted fellow governors.
Thompson left office when he was appointed by President George W. Bush as HHS Secretary.
As Secretary, Thompson initially focused on increasing the number of organ donations nationally and helped create President Bush's plan that allowed for limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research for the first time. Under that plan, which has been heavily criticized as inadequate by scientists and others, federal funding could be used on stem cell lines derived from embryos before August 9, 2001 - the date of the President's announcement. Thompson also worked on strengthening the nation's preparedness for a bioterrorism attack, by stockpiling smallpox vaccines and investing heavily in state and local public health infrastructure. At the announcement of his resignation as HHS Secretary, he commented candidly on that effort.
In 2003, Thompson helped spearhead the Bush Administration's push to pass the Medicare Modernization Act, which provided a prescription drug benefit and increased preventive screenings to Medicare beneficiaries. Again, critics said the new law did not go far enough to provide assistance to seniors and that overly benefited drug companies because it did not allow the government to directly negotiate lower prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. At his resignation news conference, Thompson also said he would have liked to have had the authority to negotiate directly with drug companies, but Congress would not include that in the legislation.
He announced his resignation from HHS on December 3, 2004, and served until January 26, 2005, when the Senate confirmed his successor, Michael O. Leavitt.
Thompson is the President of Logistics Health, Inc. He is also senior partner at Akin Gump, a Washington, D.C., law firm, and is additionally a senior advisor at the consulting firm Deloitte and is the chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. From these posts, he speaks frequently on issues including obesity and health information technology. Thompson taught a class in the fall of 2005 at the Kennedy School of Government on medical diplomacy.
Shortly after leaving his Bush Cabinet post, Thompson joined the board of directors of Applied Digital Solutions, makers of the controversial VeriChips: glass-encapsulated RFID devices to be injected into human flesh for identification purposes and for use as a payment device. He acquired a considerable share in the company. In public appearances, he suggested injecting the microchips into Americans to link to their electronic medical records. Thompson also suggested implanting the devices in military personnel as a replacement for dog tags.
"We are all well aware of the need to enhance Information Technology in healthcare," he said. "It is my belief that VeriChip is an important and secure means of accessing medical records and other information. I look forward to working with the company as it continues its growth."
Various news outlets in July 2005 reported that Thompson would soon get an implant himself. But by December of that year, Thompson still had not had that procedure, saying that it did not make sense to do so until it is used widely by health care providers. Though VeriChip spokespeople attributed it to his busy schedule, opponents attributed it to private concerns he had and concerns about the safety of the device, despite advocating their use by the general public.
Medicare Mismanagement and Conflict of Interest
Investigators from the General Accounting Office determined that Thompson violated federal law by using $9.5 million tax payer dollars to promote changes to Medicare that would benefit companies Thompson has a financial stake in (including VeriChip and the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions).
Additionally, Thompson.s agency falsely reported the cost of the Medicare reform by over $150 billion. Thompson.s appointee, Tom Scully, threatened to fire staff if they revealed to Congress the true cost. Investigators determined that the data was illegally hidden from Congress, and that Scully.s threat to fire the actuary was in violation of federal appropriations law. Accordingly, federal money could not be used to pay Scully's salary after he made the threats to the actuary in May 2003
Future public office
Thompson's name has been frequently mentioned for a national GOP ticket.
In 1996, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole named Thompson to his short list of possible vice presidential nominees, along with New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman, Texas Governor George W. Bush, Michigan Governor John Engler, and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp. Dole selected Kemp for the running mate slot, but Whitman and Bush were given the job of emceeing the 1996 Republican National Convention that nominated Dole in San Diego, while Thompson and Engler played important roles in the Dole campaign.
Rumors began circulating that Thompson himself would seek the presidency in 2000. However, Thompson announced that he would pass on the race and instead served as chairman of the Republican Platform Committee that outlined the official GOP platform for the 2000 Republican National Convention that met in Philadelphia and nominated George W. Bush for the presidency. After winning the White House, Bush selected Thompson, a close friend to Bush's father, to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services.
In August 2005, Thompson made headlines by revealing to the Detroit Free Press that he was considering forming an exploratory committee to run for president in 2008. In October 2006, he stated that "I'd make a good president" in an exclusive interview . In October 2006, Thompson formed the Forward America political action committee, with advisers telling the media that he will use the committee to support like-minded Republicans around the country. When asked if this meant he will run for president in 2008, advisers said that decision would be made some time in 2007. On November 15, 2006, just days after the Democratic party won control of the U.S. Congress, CNN reported that Thompson announced that he was establishing an exploratory commission to run for President in 2008.
Thompson had also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Wisconsin's 2006 gubernatorial election, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. After the withdrawal of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker from the Wisconsin gubernatorial race on March 24, it seemed unlikely to observers that Thompson would enter that race, since Walker endorsed the other Republican candidate, Congressman Mark Green. Thompson initially refused to rule it out. On May 14, however, Thompson announced that after deliberating with family and friends he had decided not to run in the election.
Many Republicans urged Thompson to run against Senator Herb Kohl (including Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee) on the theory that he was the only candidate who would stand a chance against the popular three-term Democratic senator. Thompson announced in mid-June 2006 that he would not run against Kohl, who easily defeated Republican candidate Robert Lorge in the November election.
On November 15, 2006, Fox News reported that Thompson intends to form a committee to explore a possible run for the White House in 2008. The announcement came in Iowa, a political hotbed for presidential primaries, because of its primary election, the Iowa Caucus. Which has historically been an accuarate indicator as to which candidate will win each party's nomination for President.
"I intend to do so after the first of the year," Thompson said in reference to creating an exploratory committee.
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