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Ron Johnson, Russ Feingold LAW

Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, right, is challenging Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for the seat he lost in 2010.

A super PAC is making its biggest investment yet in Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, which likely will contrast his national security record with his Democratic opponent, Russ Feingold — even as Feingold blasted Johnson Monday for lacking a plan to keep Americans safe.

The super PAC, Let America Work, announced a $500,000 TV ad buy that will run statewide starting Labor Day weekend.

Curt Anderson, a senior adviser to the group, said its ad would respond to another recent ad from Feingold’s campaign outlining his plan to combat terror. Let America Work previously ran ads blasting Feingold as weak on national security and terrorism.

Feingold, D-Middleton, hit back hard in a Monday press conference, saying Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security committee, has no blueprint to combat terrorism.

“Sen. Johnson talks about this issue when there’s a tragedy and goes on Fox News. But he has no plan to deal with it. I do,” Feingold said.

That plan, Feingold said, includes taking out Islamic State terror group leaders, recruiting more spies in such groups, and cutting off their oil supplies, financing and inflow of weapons.

Johnson’s campaign spokesman, Brian Reisinger, responded by noting that Johnson has called for a multinational military coalition to enter the Mideast and defeat the Islamic State and sponsored a law to overhaul the federal visa waiver program.

“Ron Johnson is telling Wisconsinites the truth about the threats we’re facing, and pushing real solutions to keep local communities safe,” Reisinger said.

News of the Let America Work ad blitz comes shortly after another key group supporting Johnson, the Koch-brothers-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund, scaled back its plans to bolster Johnson with ads during August and September.

Recent Marquette Law School polls of the race consistently have shown Feingold leading Johnson and Libertarian Phillip Anderson. The two most recent polls pegged Feingold’s lead among likely voters in the three-way race at 11 percentage points in August and 6 points in July. Among registered voters, Feingold’s lead in the three-way matchup was 9 points in August and 7 in July.

All of the ads are part of a wave of outside money in Wisconsin’s Senate contest that, so far, has overwhelmingly aided Johnson.

More than $4.8 million has been spent by outside groups against Feingold or supporting Johnson, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That’s compared to slightly more than $1 million against Johnson or supporting Feingold.

Meanwhile Monday, actor Robert Redford appealed for donations on behalf of Feingold.

Feingold, speaking Monday, sought to clarify his remarks last week suggesting that the Clinton Foundation nonprofit may need to be shut down if Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is elected.

Clinton recently has been dogged by questions about overlap between the foundation — of which she is a former board member, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is founder — and her past role as U.S. secretary of state.

“If somebody is going to become president of the United States, it becomes very, very important to make sure that there are no questions,” Feingold said. “What I said was, they ought to be as open as possible about what this has done, the Clinton Foundation, and whether there are any concerns going forward — and that it may be a good idea not to have it when she becomes, if she becomes, president.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.