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Reality Check: Johnson skews Feingold defense votes

Reality Check: Johnson skews Feingold defense votes

MADISON, Wis. - In a series of ads he's been running, Sen. Ron Johnson aims to raise questions about whether Russ Feingold's votes on defense spending and the Patriot Act would make him weak on terrorism.

The ad uses clips of an ad Feingold had been running to refute Johnson and tries to turn the comments around.

"Here's Senator Feingold on ISIS," the announcer says, then showing Feingold say "use special forces and targeted military strikes, better human intelligence."

"But Feingold was the only senator to vote against intelligence tools after 9/11," the announcer says.

News 3 finds this needs clarification.

Johnson is referring here to the Patriot Act, a bill that gave the government wide-ranging intelligence tools to combat terrorism, including domestic surveillance.

Feingold was the lone vote against that bill in the U.S. Senate, raising concerns that it could violate American civil liberties.  He's been standing by that vote in recent interviews for that reason.

"Feingold also opposed special ops when he voted against authorizing our military 11 separate times," the announcer says.

News 3 finds this is misleading.

It's true that Feingold voted against the National Defense Authorization Act 11 times during his 18-year tenure in the Senate, but that doesn't mean he was opposing "special ops."

The NDAA is a large bill that sets policy for the Department of Defense each year.  When you look at why Feingold voted against the bills, his reasons offered in speeches and statements varied each year and were not specific to special ops.  For example, in 2008 he said he supported provisions but voted no because of $70 billion to continue the war in Iraq. In 2009 he said his no vote was because of an open-ended commitment to military action in Afghanistan.

It's also worth noting that Feingold wasn't the lone vote against these bills.  Records show Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky voted no some of the same years as Feingold,  as well as other Democrats and Republicans.

If you have an idea for a Reality Check, send it to us at realitycheck@channel3000.com.

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