September 20, 2014

Mary Burke stands by jobs plan amid copying controversy

Mary Burke (Photo: WRN)

Mary Burke (Photo: WRN)

The Democratic challenger for governor is standing behind her plan to create jobs and grow the economy.

Republicans on Friday hurled accusations of plagiarism against Democrat Mary Burke, following a BuzzFeed report that found paragraphs in her jobs plan matched language in proposals offered by Democratic candidates for governor in other states in previous elections. The language was added by a consultant to the campaign, Eric Schnurer, who had worked on the other campaigns where the wording had been used.

Speaking to reporters in Appleton late Friday afternoon, Burke said that Schnurer was one of many experts her campaign worked with in developing the jobs plan. Much like in the private sector, Burke said she studied ideas from around the country because “the good ones are the ones that are based on ideas that have worked in other places.” She said the state does not have to “reinvent the wheel” to move the economy forward.

AUDIO: Mary Burke defends jobs plan.

While Burke stood by her plan, she also noted the Schnurer was never supposed to submit the exact same words he used when contributing to other plans. As a result of that, Burke said the campaign has terminated its relationship with him.

Affiliate WHBY contributed to this report.

Latest audit of Wisconsin jobs agency shows concerns over records

File photo

File photo

A new state audit shows Wisconsin’s job creation agency did not keep records to justify its spending on travel, salaries, and grants during its first two years.

The report from the Legislative Audit Bureau contains a fiscal review of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the public-private agency Governor Scott Walker created in 2011. Auditors said previously identified processing errors within the agency have been fixed, and there’s a new tracking system in which expense numbers upload directly into the agency’s accounting network. That reduces the chances for errors.

The audit showed that spending on 223 administrative items were not properly documented to indicate whether the items were reasonable, or even approved. The auditors also looked at 44 grant payments to businesses, economic groups, and local governments. They turned up processing errors, and a lack of supporting documents. The review covered 2011-2013 and noted that $1.7 million in job creation loans to businesses had not been paid back by the end of last year.

Agency CEO Reed Hall said his department now has a policy on documenting spending, and it plans to review its loan portfolio.

Walker responds to Burke copying claim

Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

Governor Scott Walker says a report that his Democratic opponent’s jobs plans includes text copied from proposals offered by candidates for governor in other states “doesn’t change much” about the real discussions of the campaign.

Democrat Mary Burke’s campaign says a consultant who worked on the jobs plan is responsible for the text, which was the same or similar to paragraphs found in campaign plans offered by Delaware Governor Jack Markell in 2008, Ward Cammack of Tennessee in 2009, and John Gregg of Indiana in 2012. The consultant, Eric Schnurer, had also worked with those candidates. Burke’s campaign says it has cut all ties with Schnurer, following the revelations.

During a stop in the Green Bay area on Friday, Governor Walker said “it was disappointing to hear” about the situation. Still, Walker said he would rather be “talking about the positives of our plan, rather than who may or may not have been involved in writing our opponent’s plan.”

AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker (:11)

Burke’s campaign notes that she worked with a variety of experts in putting together her jobs plan. Walker admitted that’s it not unusual to use ideas from other politicians, but said it’s typically to give those individuals credit. He pointed to his “Better Bottom Line” proposal announced in his State of the State Address, which originated with Governor Jack Markell. Walker says he asked Markell in advance about using the term and acknowledged its origins in his speech.


Mary Burke jobs plan snafu likely has minimal impact on voters

Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke (Photo: WSAU)

Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke (Photo: WSAU)

Wisconsin Republicans are accusing Mary Burke of “plagiarizing” some of her jobs plan. One expert says it’s hard to predict what, if anything, this gaffe could mean for Burke.

Portions of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s jobs plan were copied from other candidates, but her campaign blames a consultant. UW-Madison Political Science Professor Barry Burden says, at the very least, it’s a distraction for the campaign. “She would prefer to be focusing on the fallibility of the Walker Administration and explaining to voters why she deserves to be governor rather than Scott Walker. Instead she’ll have to spend some time explaining the situation, dealing with personnel in her campaign, and trying to maintain her credibility with voters.”

The Burke campaign says an “expert who also works with other campaigns,” is responsible for the copied parts of the plan and he “no longer has any involvement with the (Burke) campaign.”

The past few Marquette Polls show Burke and Republican Governor Scott Walker are in a dead heat. Burden says a gaffe like this might not even matter to a polarized electorate in a 50-50 state. “That makes one think that almost any news would have no effect whether it’s a scandal in a campaign or it is new  economic numbers, about job creation in the state, the budget news that’s come out over the last couple of weeks does not seem to faze people because they view it through the attitudes they already have.”

Burke for Wisconsin Communications Director Joe Zepecki responded to the plagiarism claims in a statement:

“The core strategies Mary Burke outlines and the vision for Wisconsin’s economy that she lays out is entirely her own, and stand unquestioned by anyone. … Among the experts Burke spoke with was an individual who also works with other campaigns … which explains why in a few, isolated instances similar language from those plans is used.”

The revelation was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

Remember POW-MIA Recognition Day

POW-MIA flag atop the state Capitol building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

POW-MIA flag atop the state Capitol building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

On the third Friday in September Americans remember the commitment and sacrifices made by members of the U.S. military who were taken as prisoners of war or went missing during combat operations.

“America has made a commitment to those in uniform that no one would be left behind,” says Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos. The Iraq War veteran reminds us there are more than 83,000 Americans still listed as MIA, dating back to World War II. His own father was held prisoner of war after having been shot down over Nazi Germany during the second world war.

POW-MIA proclamation (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

POW-MIA proclamation (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Scocos stresses the importance of remembering those who haven’t returned home. “I think it’s important that we show our service members and their families that we will continually make the resolve to find the remains. As a nation, we honor our members of the armed forces and that their dedication and duty — whether in peace time or war time — will not be forgotten by the public.”

Scocos points out, for many former POWs, the pain of their captivity never entirely ends, even years after their return home.

AUDIO: Scocos says America has made a commitment to those in uniform that no one would be left behind.

Many veterans groups across the state are holding silent marches. Scocos will participate in an event in Lake Geneva.