BuzzFeed reports that Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s plan for job creation in the Badger State, “Invest for Success,” consists largely of sentences and whole paragraphs lifted verbatim from policy papers produced for the campaigns of other Democratic gubernatorial candidates in several other states. The plans cannibalized for Burke’s benefit are those put forward by then-Delaware governor Jack Markell in 2008, Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Ward Cammack in 2009, and Indiana candidate John Gregg in 2012. Cammack withdrew his candidacy before the election; Gregg was defeated.
The issue is a major one for Burke, not least because of the Democrats’ insistent hammering on the jobs-creation record of Governor Scott Walker. During his 2008 campaign, Walker rashly put forward a goal of creating 250,000 new private-sector jobs in Wisconsin during his first term; at the time, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 9.2%. The policies of the preceding, Democratic Doyle administration, which had included much higher corporate and personal tax rates than the surrounding states, as well as a controversial provision requiring any business headquartered in Wisconsin with operations in other states to pay taxes in Wisconsin on profits earned in those states, combined to drive businesses out of the state at a loss, over the Doyle administration’s eight years, of well over 100,000 jobs. From 2005-2007, Burke served as Doyle’s secretary of commerce.
Immediately after the election, Walker set to work with the new Republican majority in both houses of the state legislature to alter the corporate tax structure and began a general policy of incremental reduction of taxes in an effort to make the state more attractive to business in general. The “headquarter tax” measure was scrapped entirely, and deregulation measures were undertaken. The result has been an increase in jobs which has more than made up for those lost over the previous eight years, and an unemployment rate for August 2014, according to preliminary figures (the latest available), of 5.6% (source: National Conference of State Legislatures).
But he has not reached a quarter million, and the Democrats are not letting him forget it. Hence, of critical importance to the context is what Burke would do differently, which was supposed to be laid out in the pages of “Invest for Success.”
When questioned about the plagiarized proposals, Burke pointed the finger at Democratic consultant Eric Schnurer, who, she said, had written the earlier economic development proposals, and cut and pasted from them without her knowledge. She asserted that Schnurer had been fired.
At a minimum, this means of course that Burke had very little input into her own economic development proposals, since she apparently was unaware that they were largely reheated leftovers from previous campaigns in other states under other conditions, two of which had failed in their states. Even worse, though: Milwaukee talk radio station WISN went through Burke’s campaign filings and was unable to find any record that either Schnurer or his company, Public Works, had ever been employed by the Burke campaign. This certainly suggests that somebody else plagiarized Schnurer’s proposals, though whether with or without his permission has not been ascertained.
None of this augurs well for Burke, who is beginning to fall behind Walker in the polls. In the most recent Marquette University Law School Poll, Walker is leading her 49% to 46% among likely voters, with fewer than 1% indicating that they will certainly vote for someone else (two minor party candidates are also in the race). Though the difference is still within the poll’s 4% margin of error, the two campaigns have been virtually neck and neck for most of the year, and the previous poll had Burke leading by 1% among likely voters.
This revelation comes on top of reported difficulties that Burke has had in accounting for her past, in particular her precise responsibilities as an executive at the family-owned business, Trek Bicycles, where she was reportedly vice president responsible for special projects at the time a controversial decision was made to close a manufacturing plant (which had been opened less than a year earlier with the help of a state loan) and relocate the manufacturing jobs in China. This move seemed to contradict Burke’s stated opposition to such outsourcing measures.