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WASHINGTON - Former Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson told Jewish activists Monday that making money is "part of the Jewish tradition," and something that he applauded.

Speaking to an audience at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington D.C., Thompson said that, "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."

Thompson later apologized for the comments that had caused a stir in the audience, saying that he had meant it as a compliment, and had only wanted to highlight the "accomplishments" of the Jewish religion.

"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," he said.

"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 left public office in 2005, having served four terms as Wisconsin governor and later as President George W. Bush's Health and Human Services Secretary. He announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination at the start of April.

"We are pleased that Governor Thompson made time in his schedule- like many other policy makers- to address the 2007 Consultation of Conscience," said Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

The Consultation of Conscience is a three day conference bringing together the Reform Jewish Movement's top social justice advocates for meetings and briefings with top policy makers in Washington, D.C.

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