Burke Campaign’s Last Refuge: The Nazi Card?

Yes, a swastika ad. First, the background.

Mary Burke’s thin résumé could only be highlighted with one claim: as an executive of the Trek bicycle firm, she managed their European operations so brilliantly that sales rose exponentially under her watch. Surely such an exemplary manager and problem-solver was just the ticket to serve as Democratic Governor Jim Doyle’s commerce secretary, and is now the person to end the political divisiveness which has characterized Scott Walker’s first four years.

This bubble burst last week when Gary Ellerman, who had worked 21 years for the Trek corporation, serving as vice president in charge of human relations, revealed the devastating truth: Trek’s continental European operations had suffered substantial losses under Burke’s leadership. She had caused critical personnel problems, such that she was stripped of her responsibilities by upper management, forced to return to the U.S. and to apologize to management for her incompetence, and then allowed to take her now-famous snowboarding sabbatical.

Burke’s only possible defense is to discredit this testimony, and Ellerman does have an Achilles’ heel: he himself had subsequently been terminated by Trek (he says over differences in hiring philosophy), and he is a politically active Republican, indeed, chairman of the Jefferson County branch of the party.

Two things prevent this from becoming a case of “he says, she says.”

The first is that Ellerman’s account of the affair has been confirmed in all its essentials by Tom Albers, who was president of Trek at the time and who conducted the review of Burke’s operations at the request of her father, then CEO, which led to her dismissal from the position.

The second is the absolute silence from Trek, currently headed by Burke’s brother, concerning the entire affair.

Burke’s account also requires that one believe that such a stellar performer would be “downsized” by her own family after two years on the job. She has tried to sell that with this ad, as picked up by the Washington Post.

The ad is one long exercise in mendacity. Let’s unpack the lies in order.