The cut-and-paste candidacy of Mary Burke

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  • 08/21/2022

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is currently just a few points ahead of his Democrat challenger, Mary Burke, in the polls.  If Burke wins, not only will Democrats have defeated a Republican governor who survived constant attacks from Big Labor, endured an absurd years-long witch hunt from a partisan Democrat prosecutor, turned around a fiscal wasteland left by his Democrat predecessors, and earned serious consideration as a 2016 presidential contender, but they’ll be able to boast that they didn’t put a lot of effort into the winning campaign.  It turns out that a lot of Burke’s platform was copied from other sources, and the candidate might not have bothered to read some of it.

First, we learned Burke’s “jobs plan” was mostly stale boilerplate copied from three previous Democrat candidates, only one of whom actually won his race.  As Buzzfeed detailed, other parts of her plan were copied from a White House press release and a Harvard report.  We’re not talking about borrowing some ideas here and there.  Sizable sections of the older documents were copied word-for-word.

After her defenders made fitful attempts to claim this was no big deal, Burke decided it was a big enough deal to sack the consultant who was held responsible, claiming he had essentially plagiarized himself, because he worked on those previous gubernatorial campaigns.  (Did he write the Harvard report and the White House press release, too?)  It should be noted that the consultant in question, Eric Schnurer, is not named anywhere in the Burke jobs plan as its author.

Of course, Walker and his allies made plenty of noise about this, with the Governor describing the plagiarism story as “pretty serious,” and two Republican state senators going as far as calling for Burke to withdraw from the race.  (Of course she wasn’t about to do that, but the political wound has to be pretty deep for that much salt to get rubbed in it.)  Inconveniently for Burke, this isn’t the only plagiarism scandal to haunt Democrats during the current campaign cycle.  GOP ads pointing out that Democrats haven’t got any new ideas will write themselves, if they haven’t done so already.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

During a campaign stop in West Bend, Walker indicated Burke had not gone far enough in dealing with the controversy over the copied passages.

Walker alluded to U.S. Sen. John Walsh of Montana, who quit a campaign over disclosures that he plagiarized large sections of the final paper in a master’s degree program at the Army War College.

“Even Joe Biden, back in the 1988 presidential election, eventually had to pull out because of charges of plagiarism,” Walker said.

Asked if Burke should pull out of the race, Walker said, “She should ultimately fess up to what actually happened with that plan.”

“People expect a leader that’s going to take responsibility for their actions,” he added. “Most people look at this and question, either you didn’t know what was in the plan, or you did and you hoped that people wouldn’t find out that it came from somewhere else.”

Walker noted the importance of the jobs plan to the Burke campaign.

“This isn’t just a campaign flier,” he said. “This was a document that she told all of you in the press and the voters of this state was the centerpiece of her campaign. In fact, she not only mentioned that but she made a big deal to point out that this was because of her Harvard Business School experience that she had the expertise to put a plan like this together.”

Walker added, “She said the voters should look at it. She even mocked what we put forward four years ago and in comparison ours wouldn’t even be better than an eighth-grade term paper. Well, as people pointed out (Friday) even eighth-graders know you don’t copy work from other people’s work product.”

That’s one of the big reasons this will be tough for the Burke campaign: she made a Bee Eff Dee about her great “jobs plan,” and heavily insinuated she was sooo much smarter than Walker, who lacks a college degree.  It’s genuinely surprising she’d make such a foolish mistake and leave herself wide open like this.  It paints her as a lightweight candidate, not to mention playing into the national campaign meme of Democrats who boast about their wonderful academic credentials, but bring us one bureaucratic disaster after another.  When your campaign is a bureaucratic disaster, you’ve got problems.

While Burke was busy cutting her ties to her cut-and-paste consultant, Walker was putting his team to work on finding more instances of plagiarism from Burke.  What they found probably wouldn’t have gotten a fire burning on its own, but it was enough to keep the controversy bubbling, as the Journal-Sentinel reports:

The material includes two Burke plans — one on rural communities and the other veterans issues — that include passages from several websites as well as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s “Plan to Create Wisconsin Jobs,” which he used during his 2010 campaign for governor.

There are seven instances of disputed material. Most of the material is less than a paragraph long, and in some cases, fragments of sentences. In four cases, the Burke documents cited the other online material but did not place the borrowed passages in quotes.

All in all, the seven passages are not as substantial or egregious as the unattributed use of language by Burke’s jobs plan. But a top Walker aide was still ready to pounce.

“Mary Burke’s plagiarism is clearly not an isolated incident as she claimed last week but a disturbing pattern of intellectual dishonesty,” said Walker spokesman Tom Evenson.

As the JS article notes, Buzzfeed also found a few more bits of copy-and-paste to add the to bonfire of Burke’s vanities.  The icing on the cake is that Burke might not have actually read any of this plagiarized material herself, because as Breitbart News noted, her jobs plan makes a big deal about the outsourcing of American jobs to overseas… and Mary Burke has outsourced plenty of jobs herself:

The company, whose 2013 revenues were estimated at $600 million, manufactured the majority of its bicycles in America during the first decade after its founding in 1976. By 2011, however, virtually all of the 1.5 million of the bicycles it sold were manufactured in China, Taiwan, and Germany, according to a company spokesperson. Less than one percent–a mere 10,000–were manufactured in Wisconsin.

Burke, who served on the Trek Bicycle Board of Directors along with her father, company founder Richard Burke, until 2005, appears to have played a key role in outsourcing Trek Bicycle’s American manufacturing jobs to China, despite claims to the contrary from her campaign and her family.

Burke was employed as a senior executive at Trek on two separate occasions after receiving an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1985. According to her resume, she served as the company’s Director of European Operations from 1990 to 1993, where she claims she “[grew the] company’s European business from $2 [million] to $60 [million] in sales in 4 years.” She also had “direct bottom line responsibility for 8 operations in 7 countries.”

After a two year hiatus, she returned to Trek Bicycle in 1995, where she served as Trek’s Director of Forecasting and Strategic Planning, “[r]esponsible for forecasting sales, scheduling production, managing inventory in addition to long term strategic planning and acquisition analysis,” suggesting she was crucial, if not the final decisionmaker, to deciding where the company manufactured its products.

Despite that, Burke’s brother claimed she had nothing to do with the decisions to outsource American jobs overseas, saying he and Burke’s father made the calls instead.

If Wisconsin voters fall for that lame crap – it’s not my fault that we sent all those jobs to China, my brother and father did it, I was an executive but I wasn’t really paying any attention to what they were doing, I was… um… totally thinking about my jobs plan or something – then they deserve Mary Burke and her folder full of ideas copied from losing Democrat campaigns.  For what it’s worth, it sounds like some of the Wisconsin liberals who stuck with her this far are pretty steamed about the outsourcing, to the point that one liberal activist said he was “ashamed to have Burke as our only candidate.”  It remains to be seen if they get over their disappointment, remember how much they hate Scott Walker, and generate enough enthusiasm to overpower a Wisconsin conservative movement crushed by that out-of-control “John Doe” investigation.  With that kind of battlespace preparation, even a bad candidate might be good enough.