If you're confused by the on-air back-and-forth between former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and a third-party group supporting Sen. Ron Johnson, you're not the only one.
So here's a primer on the campaign ad saga:
Freedom Partners Action Fund, a group funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, launched a $2 million TV and digital ad buy throughout Wisconsin.
The ad, called "The Real Story," accused Feingold of ignoring complaints while in office that the Tomah Veterans Administration Medical Center had over-prescribed opiate medications to patients.
It featured whistleblower Ryan Honl accusing Feingold's office of failing to act after receiving a memo in 2009 detailing issues at the facility.
Feingold said his office never received the memo. The memo's author, Lin Ellinghuysen, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in January the memo was not delivered to Feingold or the other Democratic lawmakers listed as recipients and was mistakenly labeled as "hand-delivered."
"I found out that Russ Feingold got a memo in 2009 that outlined veteran harm, and nothing was done," Honl said in the ad.
Lawyers for Feingold's campaign with the Perkins Coie law firm sent letters to TV stations throughout the state arguing that the ad's central claim is false and stations are obligated to pull it from the airwaves.
"This is not a question of interpretation," Jonathon Berkon of the Perkins Coie law firm told reporters. "They are simply airing an ad where the central claim is just untrue."
Feingold's campaign responded to the Freedom Partners ad with its own spot, accusing "Johnson and his allies" of not telling the truth about the Tomah scandal.
The Feingold ad went after Johnson for his office's handling of complaints and tips about the Tomah facility. It features comments Johnson made last year, when the senator argued his office might not have missed the tip if it had not come in during an election cycle, "when there’s an awful lot of turnover … when people are looking at doing job interviews and stuff."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that three TV stations had stopped running the Freedom Partners ad.
Freedom Partners Action Fund released an updated version of the ad, which it started circulating into its existing $2 million buy.
The majority of the ad was the same as the original, but the new spot showed the 2009 memo and another one from 2008.
"I found out about multiple memos outlining veteran harm, marked 'delivered' to Sen. Feingold, and nothing was done," Honl said in the updated spot.
Feingold campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said the 2008 document referenced in the updated ad doesn't pertain to the opiate issues at the Tomah facility.
"Johnson's allies are now trying to weasel their way back onto the airwaves with more deception — citing a document that says absolutely nothing about the tragic overprescription of opioids at the Tomah VA," Tyler said. "The Kochs would rather double down on a lie than accept the truth that Sen. Johnson has failed Wisconsin's veterans miserably."
Freedom Partners went after Feingold for dismissing the content of the 2008 memo.
In the memo, union officials claimed Dr. David Houlihan had created a hostile work environment and wrote prescriptions without physically evaluating patients.
"Warnings about prescribing drugs without seeing patients are at the center of the tragedies at Tomah, and Sen. Feingold still doesn’t get it," said Freedom Partners Action Fund spokesman Bill Riggs in a statement.
Also on Wednesday, PolitiFact Wisconsin rated the content of the original Freedom Partners ad as "False."
"Whether the memo was ever delivered to Feingold, who was then a U.S. senator, may never be known. But Freedom Partners cites no evidence that it was delivered," PolitiFact reporter Tom Kertscher wrote. "And it made a revised version of the ad that essentially walks back its claim, now saying the memo was marked as delivered, not that Feingold actually received it."
The Feingold campaign launched a new ad, called "Pulled." The spot is an updated version of the one it released last week, but includes a mention of the TV stations pulling the Freedom Partners ad.
Freedom Partners fired back by directing reporters to statements made by Honl in a video published May 4, when the ad first aired.
"Russ Feingold had this memo hand-delivered to him, which they all deny now," Honl said in the video. "Ron Johnson has been investigating not only Tomah, but corruption in other agencies and other VAs across the country. There's no comparison between what Ron Johnson has done, when it comes to accountability and advocating for veteran's choice and compared to what the Democrats are doing on trying to make it go away."