Saturday, September 20, 2014

WISGOP response to hyped-up “scandal” goes overboard, ignores "sad days" under Walker

Republicans in the state blow Burke scandal out of proportion, and ignore the scandals under the head of their party

Let’s set the record straight: plagiarism is a bad thing. There’s no doubt about it. Taking someone else’s original ideas and claiming them as your own is morally, ethically, and at times legally wrong.

Now, it’s questionable whether Mary Burke or her campaign engaged in actual plagiarism. An article at the New Republic explains it best:
So is Burke guilty of plagiarism? Of course not. She’s guilty of sharing a campaign consultant with other Democrats in her state.

... The Burke scandalette...[is] an instance of lazy p.r. tradecraft, and the consultant who “plagiarized” his own talking points has been fired for it.

... If a politician copy-pastes large segments of his academic thesis, it’s plagiarism. If he recites long passages taken from various sources in his speeches, it’s plagiarism. If he regurgitates the same sanitized Plan for AmericaTM as a fellow party member, it’s just message discipline working a little bit too well.

With all of that in mind, it’s clear that Burke isn’t in the hot water that some are making her out to be in. Still, what has happened wasn’t appropriate -- her jobs plan included portions of it that were word-for-word parts of other jobs plans. What WAS appropriate was the action that was taken -- Burke fired the consultant who wrote those passages.

Criticism of this event is wholly warranted; whether Burke is a candidate or becomes the eventual governor, we must remember that she is not immune to scrutiny simply for having a “D” after her name.

What should be understandable criticism, however, has gone overboard on the part of several members of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Luther Olsen calls for Burke’s resignation

Take Sen. Luther Olsen, for example, who demands a huge move from Burke as a result of this situation:
How can Burke, in good faith, continue to expect high standards from students when she has violated them herself?  For the benefit of students and families in her district, I am calling on Burke to resign from her position immediately.
These statements go beyond what is necessary, and should cause any casual observer of Wisconsin politics to question how seriously they can be taken.

Olsen’s criticism is particularly telling -- he himself co-sponsored legislation provided to the state by ALEC, an organization which writes and gives state legislators bills that are favorable to corporate interests. Olsen co-sponsored a smokeless tobacco bill that changed the calculations of how chewing tobacco would be taxed. The bill was very similar to ALEC model legislation.

Is Olsen suggesting that he plagiarized ALEC, and if so, is he resigning from his position? Nope. Olsen’s aides said that they didn’t interact with ALEC directly, so any connections to him and the organization are without merit.

That’s not how plagiarism works. You don’t have to know the people to plagiarize them.

Olsen was also silent on the fact that a mining company wrote the legislation to reform mining laws in the state. That's not an original work of the legislature, nor the governor who signed the bill into law, and could technically fall under the category of plagiarism if one wants to play loose with the definition of the word.

WISGOP calls Burke untrustworthy -- ignoring years of Walker’s misdeeds

Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign manager, Stephan Thompson, lays out his party’s opinions pretty clearly:
It's a sad day for Wisconsin when the Democratic nominee for Governor misleads voters by offering a plagiarized jobs plan, in which she has staked her entire candidacy. Wisconsin deserve better, and its clear that Mary Burke cannot be trusted to lead our state.
Emphasis added.

Discovering that Burke’s jobs plan is full of already-used passages is indeed worrisome. But it isn’t a “sad day” in Wisconsin -- no one is affected by the revelation.

The same can’t be said of Gov. Scott Walker’s actions, in office and before. Consider his record:
  • Secret email system: “Darlene Wink and Kelly Rindfleisch were charged with conducting partisan campaign work while on the public payroll. The alleged crimes took place while Walker was Milwaukee County Executive and running to be governor.”
  • Appointing donor’s son to government post: “The Governor, you see, gave the son of one of his top 5 donors a position paying $81,500 a year – including a promotion and a 26% raise in just two months’ time – all while Wisconsin continues to wage its very public struggle with state debt. ... The younger Deschane’s plum job is also drawing attention due to the fact that he does not have a college degree nor much experience with management, but does have two convictions for drunk driving.”
  • Appointing underqualified underlings to important positions: “In picking a new register of deeds for Marinette County, Gov. Scott Walker picked a Republican campaign worker with no experience with land records and vital records. He passed over three candidates with detailed knowledge of how the office of the register of deeds works, including two deputies who have worked in the office for years.”
  • WEDC money to donors (for less jobs): “Corporate executives make fat donations to Scott Walker's campaign soon after his administration moves to provide millions of dollars in tax breaks to the same firm, a deal that would allow the firm to CUT IN HALF its Wisconsin work force.”
  • WEDC money to outsourcers: “At least two companies that received financial awards from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) later outsourced jobs to foreign countries, with one of those companies receiving a second WEDC award after the fact.”
  • United Sportsmen: “...the United Sportsman of Wisconsin Foundation doesn’t actually know anything about outdoor or hunting training. That’s why they were the only applicant for the $500,000 state contract from the the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shuffled in quietly by ALEC errand boy Rep. Scott Suder, who is leaving his post for a political appointment as a division administrator for water compliance and consumer affairs at the Public Service Commission in the Walker Administration.”
  • Coordinating with third-party groups to help recall allies: “The governor's campaign urged deep-pocketed donors to give to the Wisconsin Club for Growth because it ‘can accept Corporate and Personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.’ This is the same governor, by the way, who has trumpeted transparency as the antidote to big money in politics.”
  • ...and $700,000 funneled from a mining corporation to help pass mining legislation: “Wisconsin media outlets reported extensively during the 2011 and 2012 on the governor’s determination to overrule objections to the grand schemes of an out-of-state corporation. Now, those same media outlets are reporting on  newly released documents that show the mining firm secretly steered $700,000 into “independent” efforts to provide political cover for the embattled governor.”
And Wisconsin Republicans say they can't trust Burke? They need to pull the log out of their own eyes before insisting that a speck in Burke's eye needs to be removed.


So let’s recap: Mary Burke’s subordinate, a consultant for her campaign, used his own words to help write her jobs plan. His words were also used in a few other governors’ jobs plans. In a technical sense, this is unethical, questionably plagiarism. Burke immediately fired the consultant as a result.

What we have seen from Burke is a hiccup in comparison to the scandals involving Gov. Walker. It wasn’t an action that she herself performed, and it wasn’t an action that cost taxpayer dollars.

We can’t say the same of Walker. Each of the scandals listed above (and more that are unlisted) have come at the expense of the taxpayer. Cronyism, potentially illegal campaign activities, tax hand-outs for donors...all of these are more scandalous than what happened this week in Mary Burke’s campaign.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin calls it a “sad day” in Wisconsin, but there have been many more sad days in the state under Walker’s watch.

1 comment:

  1. "Our rules don't apply to us."- 21st Century GOP motto.

    You want conflicts? How about Walker resigning as Chariman of the WEDC Board, given what a pay-for-play cesspool that place is? And how about appointing crooked prosecutor Vince Biskupic as a JUDGE in Outagamie County after the Walker campaign has paid his brother Steven tens of thousands of dollars in John Doe defense funds.

    The Burke people should put on the gloves and start throwing haymakers in light of this non-story, because WisGOP has left themselves WIDE open with their bleating about this non-story.