October 07, 2012

ICYMI: Tommy Thompson Doesn't Know How Many Homes He Has

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Tommy Thompson has come a long way financially"

By Dan Bice | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

For years, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson complained that he wasn't earning big bucks as a government official.

Not any more.

Simply ask the U.S. Senate candidate exactly how many residences he owns. Just like U.S. Sen. John McCain, Thompson has a hard time keeping track.

"Three," the veteran Republican responded last week at a campaign event.

Thompson has three houses? Isn't there another one?

"No," he answered without hesitation.

OK, everybody knows about the farm in his hometown of Elroy and the house in Madison. There's also his family's relatively new 10,889-square-foot home on the outskirts of the Walt Disney World Resort in Kissimmee, Fla. A Thompson family trust bought that edifice - and its "top of the line everything," an online ad says - for $675,000 last year after the bank-owned property was marked down from its original $1.4 million asking price.

Thompson acknowledged owning all three houses.

But that was it, he said.

Only later did a correction come from his campaign staff:

He actually has one more place he calls home.

Thompson - who is running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin - had forgotten his condo off Lake Wisconsin in Sauk County. The property is currently assessed at more than $1.3 million.

Four houses for the former four-term governor.

Thompson, now worth at least $13 million, no longer has a crash pad in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 2001, he served as U.S. health and human services secretary and then worked for the D.C. powerhouse firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld until he quit earlier this year to run for U.S. Senate.

Over the past decade, he bought and sold nine townhouses in and around Alexandria, Va. He auctioned off his last set of digs for $700,000 in June 2011, just nine months after he closed on it.

In 2004, The Washington Post raised questions about Thompson's real estate deals, pointing out just how quickly he was turning over properties in the D.C. suburb. In one case, he began hawking a townhouse only two weeks after purchasing it.

"Thompson, judging from public records we've come across, appears to have been making some pin money flipping properties in Alexandria," the Post story said.

Records show the former Wisconsin governor held six of his Alexandria-area properties for less than a year. He sold only one for less than his original purchase price.

It's not clear how much profit he generated from these property deals, given real estate commissions and other costs. But according to the records, he unloaded the nine townhouses for $532,000 more than what he paid for them.

During this time, Thompson was often listed as an Alexandria resident in federal campaign reports. This was the case, for instance, when he gave $250 to Baldwin's opponent, David Magnum, in 2006, or when he chipped in $1,000 for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's re-election bid two years ago.

But in comments last week, Thompson said he never considered himself a D.C.-area resident. The bottom line, he said, is that he was, is and always will be a Wisconsinite.

He regularly votes here. He has maintained his homes in Elroy and Madison. And while working in Washington, he said, he made it a point to be back in his home state every weekend, with one exception.

"After 9-11," he said. "But that was it."

In the first Senate debate, he was equally emphatic.

"They're trying to make it out that I no longer belong to Wisconsin," he said. "I farm in Wisconsin - I run the family farm. My wife and daughter run a women's health foundation in the state of Wisconsin. And we have never left Wisconsin; we never will."

But just in case he changes his mind, there's always the Florida mansion.

View the article online here.