||This article has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality. (June 2013)|
|Thompson circa 2001|
|19th United States Secretary of Health and Human Services|
February 2, 2001 – January 26, 2005
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Donna Shalala|
|Succeeded by||Mike Leavitt|
|Chairperson of the National Governors Association|
August 1, 1995 – July 16, 1996
|Preceded by||Howard Dean|
|Succeeded by||Bob Miller|
|42nd Governor of Wisconsin|
January 5, 1987 – February 1, 2001
|Preceded by||Tony Earl|
|Succeeded by||Scott McCallum|
|Born||Tommy George Thompson
November 19, 1941
Elroy, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Sue Ann Mashak (1968–present)|
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin, Madison|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
Tommy George Thompson (born November 19, 1941) is a United States Republican politician who was a state legislator in Wisconsin, and 42nd Governor of Wisconsin from 1987 to 2001 (the longest serving). During his term as Governor he was the Chairman of AMTRAK, the nation's passenger rail service. He served as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2001 to 2005, appointed by George W. Bush. After his time in the Bush Administration, Thompson was a partner with the law-firm Akin Gump and Chairman of Deloitte's global healthcare practice and has served on the board of 22 other organizations.
Thompson was briefly a candidate for the U.S. Presidential election in 2008, withdrawing from the race before the primaries. In 2012, he was the Republican nominee for the United States Senate seat in Wisconsin, hoping to replace retiring Democrat Herb Kohl, but was defeated by Tammy Baldwin, making it his first state-wide loss.
- 1 Early life, education, and military service
- 2 Early political career (1966-1987)
- 3 Governor of Wisconsin (1987-2001)
- 4 Vice-Presidential discussion
- 5 Health and Human Services Secretary
- 6 Post-government career
- 7 2008 Presidential campaign
- 8 2012 U.S. Senate election
- 9 Criticism
- 10 Electoral history
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Early life, education, and military service
Childhood and family
His mother, Julie (née Dutton), was a teacher, and his father, Allan Thompson, owned and ran a gas station and country grocery store. His brother, the late Ed Thompson, was a former Mayor of Tomah, Wisconsin, and was the Libertarian Party nominee for Governor of Wisconsin in 2002.
Thompson earned his bachelor and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1963 and 1966, respectively. While in law school, Thompson was elected chairman of the Madison Young Republicans.
Vietnam and military service
Early political career (1966-1987)
Immediately after completing law school in 1966, Thompson ran for the Wisconsin State Assembly. In the Republican primary, he defeated incumbent Assemblyman Louis Romell by 635 votes, after Romell had underestimated the challenge Thompson represented.
In 1973, Thompson became the Assembly's assistant minority leader and, in 1981, its minority leader. Thompson aggressively used parliamentary procedure to block bills favored by the Democratic majority and stop legislative progress, earning him the nickname "Dr. No" by the frustrated majority.
American Legislative Exchange Council
As a state legislator, Thompson was involved in the early years of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative legislative organization. . Speaking at a 2002 ALEC meeting, Thompson stated: "I always loved going to [ALEC] meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare, 'That's mine.'" ALEC awarded Thompson its "Thomas Jefferson Award" in 1991.
1979 congressional election
While Thompson was Assistant Minority Leader in the Assembly, incumbent Republican U.S. Congressman William Steiger of Wisconsin's 6th congressional district died at the age of 40 from a heart attack. Thompson was one of seven Republican candidates who ran to replace Steiger in the special election in 1979. Tom Petri won the primary and general elections and still represents the 6th district today.
Governor of Wisconsin (1987-2001)
Thompson served as the 42nd Governor of Wisconsin, having been elected to an unprecedented four terms. As of April 2013, Thompson has the tenth longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history at 5,142 days.
Thompson decided to run for Governor of Wisconsin in 1986 against incumbent Democrat Anthony Earl. He ran and won the Republican primary with 52% of the vote in a five candidate field. He defeated Earl 53%-46%.
Thompson is best known nationally for pushing his state to overhaul its welfare system. These reforms were implemented and pioneered before Congress and President Clinton undertook national reform of the program. Under his leadership, Wisconsin has reduced its welfare rolls by almost 90%, cutting welfare spending but increasing investments in child care and health care, especially for low-income working families. Thompson has been called a "pioneer" for two key initiatives of his governorship, the Wisconsin Works welfare reform (sometimes called W-2) and school vouchers. In 1990 Thompson pushed for the creation of the country's first parental school-choice program, which provided Milwaukee families with a voucher to send children to the private or public school of their choice. He 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.
Thompson was well known for his extensive use of the veto, particularly his sweeping line-item veto powers. Wisconsin governors have the power to strike out words, numbers, and even entire sentences from appropriations bills. In his first two terms alone, he used the line-item veto 1,500 times to cancel a total of $150 million in spending; none of these vetoes were overridden.
Thompson's welfare reform policies were criticized. Wendell Primus of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggested that "Many families have actually lost ground even though they are no longer on welfare."  Many of Wisconsin's poor remained well below the federal poverty line. In addition, slightly more of the state's poorest children lacked health insurance than before Thompson's welfare overhaul.
The growth of the state budget during Thompson's 14 year tenure became a subject of attacks on his record as governor later by conservative opponents in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary.
Thompson is a rail enthusiast, and was a supporter of mass transit, which earned him distrust on the issue from other Republicans. Prior to being selected as HHS Secretary, Thompson made clear that his first choice in the Bush Administration would be Secretary of Transportation.
In 1996, Thompson bragged that he never raised taxes in Wisconsin. Thompson claimed to cut taxes 91 times - including eliminating the estate tax in 1987, cutting income tax rates three times and a $1.2 billion property tax cut in 1995.
When Thompson made the same claim, in 2012, that he "never raised taxes", he earned a rating of "False" from PolitiFact-Wisconsin. PolitiFact found numerous examples of taxes that had increased during Thompson's terms. Politifact said in its rating, " Thompson has a long list of taxes he cut and, on balance, he can claim to have reduced taxes. But he also raised some specific taxes along the way." Politifact rated Mostly True Thompson’s claim that Wisconsin’s overall tax burden went down while he served as governor from 1987 to 2001.
Two of the tax increases that Thompson did fight, using the Wisconsin governor's partial-veto power, were taxes on the state's wealthiest residents. In a budget bill in 1987, Thompson vetoed two tax increases on capital gains and the alternative minimum tax, that would have largely affected the wealthy, at the same time that he pushed forward a cut a six percent cut in welfare benefits.
Executive power consolidation
As governor, Thompson took major steps to move decision making power from career officials to his political appointees. Among the changes:
- Consumer protection issues were taken away from the control of the Wisconsin Department of Justice and transferred to Thompson's appointee at the Department of Agriculture
- The Wisconsin Office of Public Intervenor had its budget greatly reduced, shrinking its staff and eliminating its power to sue in environmental cases; Thompson effectively shifted these powers to an appointed natural resources secretary.
- Education issues were transferred to an appointed education secretary after the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and its elected superintendent saw their powers gutted. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the move unconstitutional.
Thompson also had two other acts overturned by the courts as unconstitutional. His plan to include church schools in his school voucher plan was found unconstitutional. Thompson also insisted on keeping Good Friday as a half-holiday for state workers, "despite a clear ruling" from the Seventh Circuit, earning a rebuke from the court.
As governor, Thompson was friendly to tobacco interests. His campaign accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and trips from Philip Morris. He also vetoed a tobacco excise tax and "delayed authorizing the state attorney general to join other state[s] in a lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers.
Thompson is a Catholic and anti-abortion. His support for legislation in Wisconsin restricting abortions led Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other pro-choice groups to voice opposition his nomination to head HHS.
Treatment of Ojibwa spearfishers
In 1983, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued its "Voigt Decision", which found that Wisconsin's Ojibwa tribe had a treaty-guaranteed right to engage in traditional spearfishing off-reservation and that the state of Wisconsin was prohibited from regulating fishing on Ojibwa land. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1983.
During his 1986 gubernatorial campaign, Thompson suggested abrogating the Ojibwa's rights. Once in office, Thompson called on two Ojibwa tribes to sell their treaty-guaranteed rights: the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, for $42 million, and the Mole Lake Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, for $10 million. Thompson and two anti-spearfishing organizations, "Protect Americans' Rights and Resources" (PARR) and "Stop Treaty Abuse-Wisconsin" (STA), tried unsuccessfully to challenge the "Voigt Decision" . Thompson claimed that Native Americans' lives were in danger from protesters associated with PARR and STA if they continued spearfishing.
In 1989, federal judge Barbara Crabb refused the Thompson Administration's legal efforts and chastised the state for attempting to avoid violence by punishing the Ojibwa, who had broken no laws, since it was violence by non-Native American protesters that was threatening. Crabb issued an injunction against violent anti-spearfishing protests in 1991, and made it permanent in 1992. On May 20, 1991, the Thompson administration declared it would no longer attempt to appeal the 1983 Voight Decision.
Other Leadership Roles
During his time as Governor, Thompson served as chairman of the National Governors Association and the Education Commission of the States, in addition to the Council of State Governments, the Republican Governors Association, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, and the Midwestern Governors Association.
Thompson's name had been in the press as a possible vice presidential pick during several election seasons. By 1992, Thompson himself had openly discussed his desire to be the Republican vice presidential nominee for 1996.
Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole considered Thompson as a possible vice presidential nominee in 1996 and Thompson openly lobbied for the position. However, Thompson was forced to fight off perceptions of being someone to "bluster through a speech, turn bombastic during public statements", and have difficulty thinking on his feet. During the 1996 vetting process, Dole also reportedly remarked on Thompson's lack of finesse in their interactions.
After Dole disclosed that Thompson was no longer under consideration, Thompson stated that he was relieved because he had been "scared to death" of the process and the spotlight of the position.
Health and Human Services Secretary
Thompson left the governorship when he was appointed by President George W. Bush as HHS Secretary. He was confirmed by the Senate on January 24, 2001 Thompson announced his resignation from HHS on December 3, 2004, and served until January 26, 2005, when the Senate confirmed his successor, Michael O. Leavitt.
While Secretary, he launched initiatives to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health, reorganize the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to encourage greater responsiveness and efficiency, and clear the backlog of waivers and state plan amendments. He approved 1,400 state plans and waiver requests and thereby provide health insurance to 1.8 million lower-income Americans. In the aftermath of 9-11 he also worked on strengthening the nation's preparedness for a bio-terrorism attack, by stockpiling smallpox vaccines and investing heavily in state and local public health infrastructure.
Thompson's major initiatives were "efforts to strengthen U.S. preparedness for a bioterrorism attack, increase funding for the National Institutes of Health, expand health insurance coverage to lower-income Americans, and focus attention on health problems such as obesity and diabetes."
Medicare prescription drug-benefit
Thompson was one of the key architects of the 2003 passage of Bush's Medicare Modernization Act, which was slated to provide public funding for prescription drugs for Medicare recipients starting in 2006. On the prescription drug-benefit issue, the major piece of health care legislation of President Bush's first term, Thompson frequently served as the president's point man. National analysts cite the passage of Medicare reform as the most important achievement of Thompson's tenure as HHS secretary.
As part of the debate over the adoption of Medicare Part D, Thompson was involved in a dispute over whether the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services had to share cost estimates to Congress for legislation that would create a prescription drug benefit. Critics accused Thompson and HHS of downplaying the true cost of the law by $150 billion. CMS Administrator Tom Scully threatened to fire a CMS actuary if he revealed to Congress his estimate. Investigators determined that the data was improperly hidden from Congress, but did not conclude whether laws had been broken. In 2011 the trustees of Medicare found that the prescription drug benefit had come in 40% below estimates, the Congressional Budget Office (using different budgeting numbers) determined that the program had come in 28% below projections.
2001 anthrax scare
Early in his term, Thompson faced an emergency situation with the 2001 anthrax attacks. Thompson was given poor marks for seeming "utterly overtaken by events" and issuing "early statements that the government was prepared to deal with any biological emergency [that] never squared with the facts."
At a White House briefing following the first anthrax death of the scare, Thompson made a statement to the press that "would be cited for years afterward as a historic blunder in crisis communication." Thompson offered the media a "far-fetched" suggestion that the individual who died had come into contact with anthrax from drinking water from a creek. Thompson's words were criticized by a range of experts as unwarranted, potentially undermining public confidence, and as the "kind of statements that lead to mistrust of officials and experts." Thompson was also faulted for positioning himself as the voice of the Administration to the public on this issue, having had no formal training in medicine or public health.
Politicizing of science
In 2001, early in his term as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Thompson's office rejected 19 of 26 people, including a Nobel laureate, recommended for seats on the advisory board for the NIH developing nations unit by the unit's director. In return, Thompson's office sent back to the unit's director, Gerald Keusch of the Fogarty International Center, résumés for other scientists that Keusch described as "lightweights" with "no scientific credibility." Keusch relayed to one of those rejected, Nobel laureate Torsten Wiesel, that he was pushed aside for having "signed too many full-page letters in The New York Times critical of President Bush."  This incident was cited by the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists as part of a report detailing their allegations of politicization of science under President George W. Bush's administration.
Resignation press conference
Thompson resigned on December 3, 2004, in a press conference at which he issued warnings over the dangers of avian flu and the poisoning of U.S. food supplies by terrorists. Thompson stated that he had attempted to resign in 2003, but stayed until after the President's reelection, at the request of the Administration.
Commentators found Thompson's statements at the conference to be alarmist, particularly his words: "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not, you know, attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do. And we are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."
After the press conference, the Bush Administration moved quickly to reduce public anxiety from Thompson's comments.
After leaving the public sector at the end of the Bush Administration, Thompson joined the law firm Akin Gump, and the consulting firm Deloitte and joined the boards of directors of other companies.
Thompson also joined the board of about two dozen private companies and nonprofit groups.
In 2011, Thompson was paid more than $1.1 million in cash and stock incentives from five public companies, Thompson's consulting firm was paid $471,000 by six companies, and Thompson himself received $3 million from the sale of a healthcare firm he chaired. Thompson's work with these companies and other investments led him to accumulate a disclosed net worth of $13 million.
A number of those companies and organizations "he helps oversee have faced an array of troubles, including claims of making faulty and dangerous medical implants, failing grades from a corporate watchdog and allegations of misleading investors." An expert with one agency that gave failing marks three of the six public companies who boards Thompson sits on commented that "either [Thompson] has really bad luck choosing companies...or he is one of the directors on company boards who is not exercising sufficient oversight."
Health care consulting and Law Firm
Thompson became a partner at law firm Akin Gump, a Washington, D.C., law firm that engages in federal lobbying. There, Thompson provided "strategic advice" to the lobbyists in the firm's health care practice, advising them on how to most successfully lobby government officials on behalf of the firm's clients.
He also became a senior advisor at the professional services firm Deloitte and became Chairman of its Deloitte Center for Health Care Management and Transformation. Thompson was no longer associated with Deloitte by October 2011.
ADS board membership
Shortly after leaving his Bush Cabinet post, Thompson joined and served for two years on the board of directors of Applied Digital Solutions, makers of the controversial VeriChip: a glass-encapsulated RFID chip that can be injected into human flesh for various database-driven identification purposes. The FDA issued approval to the device while its parent agency, DHHS, was headed by Thompson. Thompson who was a board member of ADS within five months.
Thompson received shares of stock in ADS, and compensation, leading the non-profit advocacy group Project on Government Oversight to characterize Thompson's actions "unacceptable" and embarrassing, although unfortunately entirely legal.
After leaving office, Thompson began offering policy solutions for a variety of programs that he had overseen as HHS Secretary. However, critics noted that many of these changes would benefit companies Thompson owned or had a financial stake in (including Centene and the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions). These included transferring some Medicaid beneficiaries from federal to state responsibility and requiring digitization of medical records, which would directly benefit those companies.
Public interest activities
Thompson spoke as a panelist at a 2005 Kennedy School of Government conference on global poverty, where he discussed medical diplomacy. Thompson also authored a Boston Globe op-ed on the topic.
One of the nonprofit organizations that Thompson joined the board of, Medical Missions for Children, recruited Thompson to co-host a number of episodes of one of its health instructional series, Plain Talk about Health.
2008 Presidential campaign
Statement about sexual orientation and workplace protections
During a May 3, 2007, presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Thompson was asked by moderator Chris Matthews whether private employer opposed to homosexuality should have the right to fire a gay worker. He said, "I think that is left up to the individual business. I really sincerely believe that that is an issue that business people have got to make their own determination as to whether or not they should be." He called CNN the following morning to say he didn't hear the question correctly. He apologized, saying, "It's not my position. There should be no discrimination in the workplace."
Gaffe about Jews, Israel
|“||I'm in the private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money. You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that. [...]
I just want to clarify something because I didn't in any means want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances and things. What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion. You've been outstanding business people and I compliment you for that.
—Tommy Thompson, address to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism – Consultation on Conscience, Washington, DC, April 16, 2007
|“||Thompson was courting public support, not trying to alienate people—which means he somehow believed that repeating an age-old stereotype about Jews and money would please his Jewish listeners! There could be no more vivid illustration of how deeply ingrained these stereotypes have become.||”|
On April 16, 2007, appearing before a conference organized by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Thompson referenced his lucrative transition from public service to the private sector and invoked old, slanderous stereotypes linking Judaism with finance. Thompson stated: "You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that." After the conclusion of his address, Thompson was reportedly pulled aside privately by the RAC's Rabbi David Saperstein. Thompson then returned to the podium with the intention of clearing up his earlier comments, adding: "I just want to clarify something because I didn't (by) any means want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances and things. What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion. You've been outstanding business people and I compliment you for that."
Thompson made a variety of other lesser gaffes, including referring to the Anti Defamation League as the fringe Jewish Defense League, and to Israel bonds as "Jewish bonds". He also discussed his connections to politically conservative Israeli and Jewish leaders while speaking to the mostly liberal leaning group. In addition, attendees were put off by Thompson's "saying again and again that [he had] Jewish friends."
Conference organizers noted the unease with Thompson's words but otherwise limited their comments on the faux pas, instead thanking Thompson for being one of the speakers at the conference.
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, later wrote of the incident that "there could be no more vivid illustration of how deeply ingrained these stereotypes [about Jews and finances] have become" than Thompson's belief that "repeating an age-old stereotype about Jews and money would please his Jewish listeners!"
After the event, Thompson told Politico that his remarks could be blamed on fatigue and a persistent cold. Journalists believed that Thompson had instead failed to prepare for the event, acquaint himself beforehand with the likely audience, and recruit an adviser to properly brief him before the event.
Iowa Straw Poll
Thompson had stated he would drop out of the race if he did not finish either first or second in the Ames straw poll on August 11, 2007. Thompson finished sixth, with just 7% of the vote, despite the fact that some major contenders were not competing in the poll. On August 12, Thompson officially announced he would drop out of the race.
In October 2007, Thompson endorsed Rudy Giuliani. Thompson told the Associated Press in a statement that "Rudy Giuliani has shown that he is a true leader. He can and will win the nomination and the presidency. He is America's mayor, and during a period of time of great stress for this country he showed tremendous leadership." He then endorsed Senator John McCain after Giuliani's withdrawal from the presidential race. However, in a New York Times article published October 11, 2008, Thompson is quoted in response to a question regarding whether he was happy with McCain's campaign as saying, "No. I don't know who is."
2012 U.S. Senate election
On September 19, 2011; Thompson announced he would run for the seat vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl, formally announcing on December 1, 2011. He won the Republican nomination on August 14, 2012 after a bitter four-way primary battle against a field which included millionaire hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, former Congressman Mark Neumann and Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.
ALEC member the American Chemistry Council spent nearly $650,000 in support of Thompson's bid for US Senate in the autumn of 2012.
Thompson faced Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in the general election. Although most polls from the spring through September showed Thompson ahead, he ultimately lost to Baldwin in the general election, taking 45.9 percent to Baldwin's 51.5 percent. Ultimately, Thompson could not overcome a combined 260,000-vote deficit in the state's two largest counties, Milwaukee and Dane—home to Milwaukee and Madison, respectively. It was the first time that Thompson had lost a state-wide election.
Political positions and Medicare controversy
During the 2012 campaign, Thompson, speaking to a Tea Party group, said, "who better than me, that’s already finished one of the entitlement programs, to come up with programs that do away with Medicaid and Medicare?" When a videotape of his remarks surfaced, Thompson stated that he did not want to eliminate Medicare, but instead wanted a system that would provide a subsidy to individuals to help them purchase private health insurance.
Thompson made campaign contributions to two Democrats in 2008 -- $250 to Michigan Senator Carl Levin and $100 to Bev Perdue, who was running for Governor of North Carolina. Both Democrats won in that year's elections. All told, Thompson contributed $11,350 to Republican candidates for federal office in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 election cycles, while contributing another $4,900 to Wisconsin Republicans during those same cycles.
|Wisconsin U.S. Senate Election, 2012|
|I.D.E.A.||Nimrod Allen III||16,327||0.5%|
|Wisconsin U.S. Senate Republican primary, 2012|
|Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 1998|
|Republican||Tommy Thompson (incumbent)||1,047,716||59.66|
|Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 1994|
|Republican||Tommy Thompson (incumbent)||1,051,326||67.23|
|Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 1990|
|Republican||Tommy Thompson (incumbent)||802,321||58.15|
|Democratic||Thomas A. Loftus||576,280||41.77|
|Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 1986|
|Democratic||Tony Earl (incumbent)||705,578||46.22|
|Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election 1986 - Republican Primary|
|U.S. House Wisconsin 6th District Special Election 1979 - Republican Primary|
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- John McCain 2008
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tommy Thompson.|
- Tommy Thompson for U.S. Senate official campaign website
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- "Tommy Thompson and the Conservative Revolution"; primary source material compiled by the Wisconsin Historical Society
- Tommy G. Thompson Collection, 1957-ongoing Special Collections & Archives, Marquette University (archive of materials donated by Thompson and others)
- Presidential campaign
- Federal Election Commission - Tommy G. Thompson (President) campaign finance reports
- PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer - Vote 2008: Tommy Thompson
- Tommy Thompson at DMOZ
|Governor of Wisconsin
|Chairperson of the National Governors Association
|United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Wisconsin