Saturday, August 24th, 2019

The Burke campaign’s plagiarism does matter


Waukesha Freeman October 2, 2014 Page A5 Opinion



Does it matter that Mary Burke’s campaign committed plagiarism? Does it say anything about the candidate or what kind of governor she would be?

It was interesting to watch the partisan defenders of Burke at each step of the plagiarism scandal.

Even though Burke fired the campaign consultant subcontractor, her defenders claimed it wasn’t plagiarism because he was the one that wrote the jobs plans for the other candidates. You can’t plagiarize yourself, Burke’s supporters claimed.

Actually, you can plagiarize yourself. All it takes is copying your own work and then claiming it is new and original each time.

Then the website Buzzfeed that broke the original story revealed more instances of plagiarism. The campaign took passages from the Wisconsin State Journal and even a White House press release. But nearly everyone does it, The Associated Press so helpfully explained.

However, when Burke was asked to explain plagiarism, she said, “This, this probably, using words, exact words, from a source that doesn’t, that isn’t cited and isn’t attributable.”

Then she tried to defend herself. “It’s not an issue of using words that shouldn’t have been used. It’s more a case of just not using the same words.”

That may go down as one of my favorite quotes by a politician. If I ever write a novel about an incompetent politician caught using the words of others and presenting them as her own, I will shamelessly steal that line.

But why does all this matter? It matters because Burke is a complete construct of the Democratic Party, created with the sole purpose of defeating Gov. Scott Walker.

There is nothing to Burke that wasn’t artificially created for this run for office.

When Burke was first recruited for this task, the Democratic Party set up focus groups to find out what her positions should be. Her campaign spent months avoiding making any campaign promises or policy statements.

Then the Burke campaign unveiled the jobs plan with great fanfare. It turns out it was a cut-and-paste job by the campaign’s media consultant subcontractor.

Give Burke’s campaign credit for chutzpah. When asked if she was going to pull the plan, Burke said they will make citations and notes as necessary. Her campaign spokesman then told the media no changes would be made.

Burke even told Buzzfeed she spent “hundreds of hours” working on her jobs plan. She must have worn out the right click button on her computer’s mouse.

More likely, she spent “hundreds of hours” learning how to be a candidate that could parrot the policy positions copied and pasted for her.

Burke now has an ad defending the copying and pasting, saying that of course she took the best ideas from other states. What she doesn’t mention in the ad is that she took ideas without any attribution and claimed them as her own. Nor does she mention that she is completely devoid of any ideas of her own. When Burke was asked recently if she had any original ideas in her campaign position papers, Burke told WISC-TV in Madison, “But I can tell you one thing that’s in this plan that I said I want to make sure we have in this plan is the possible use and growth of anaerobic digesters.”

Hilariously, Collin Roth of RightWisconsin discovered that the language concerning anaerobic digesters, a method of recovering bovine flatulence and converting it to energy, was taken almost word-for-word from former candidate for governor Tom Barrett’s 2010 campaign.

Because this is a family newspaper, we won’t go to the obvious jokes about the content of the rest of Burke’s plans.

Burke was selected because, as she is the heiress to Trek Bicycle money, she could self-finance her campaign.

Burke is also a blank slate. She has only held two positions in government, as former Gov. Jim Doyle’s commerce secretary and as a board member of the Madison school district. While neither position covered Burke in glory, they’re both low-profile enough that Democrats thought they could cast her as a job creator with experience.

But copied policy positions and some attack ads will not suddenly transform a gubernatorial candidate into someone qualified for the job. The whole plagiarism fiasco has exposed Burke as a hollow, idealess opportunist.

As Gertrude Stein famously said, “There is no there, there.”

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