Can a campaign jobs plan be plagiarized? Or is regurgitating a jobs plan from previous candidates of the same party a political offense at all? BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski catches the gubernatorial campaign of Mary Burke, running against Scott Walker in Wisconsin, using nearly-verbatim passages from three previous Democratic gubernatorial candidates in other states:
Large portions of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s jobs plan for Wisconsin appear to be copied directly from the plans of three Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.
Burke’s economic plan “Invest for Success” copies nearly-verbatim sections from the jobs plans of Ward Cammack, who ran for Tennessee governor in 2009 before withdrawing from the race, a 2008 plan from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, and John Gregg who ran for governor of Indiana in 2012 and lost to Mike Pence.
The issue here really isn’t plagiarism, it’s inauthenticity. Burke got the nomination in part because of her rare business expertise for Wisconsin Democrats, who usually come out of the public sector to run for higher offices. Burke ran Trek Bicycle and went to Harvard Business School, and was sold to Democrats as someone who could challenge Walker on economic policy. Until now, that has worked pretty well, eating into Walker’s economic message while the Left hits Walker on his public-sector reforms.
This, however, does real damage to Burke’s status as the candidate engaged on economic matters. The campaign’s explanation may make matters even worse:
“The core strategies outlined by Mary Burke in “Invest for Success” and her vision for how to create jobs and grow our economy are uniquely her own, informed by her time at Harvard Business School, through starting her own small business, serving as a top executive at Trek and leading the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Throughout the development of the plan, Burke discussed her ideas with a variety of experts both in state and nationally. Among those experts was an individual who also worked with the Markel, Cammareck and Gregg campaigns which explains why in a few, isolated instances similar language from those plans is used to describe ideas that are widely accepted as best practices or are ideas which hold promise for Wisconsin.”
That explanation may shove the responsibility for the “plagiarism” onto a subordinate, but it also makes clear that the jobs plan wasn’t a personal priority for Burke, too. Burke’s narrative of being the candidate most focused on creating jobs and having the know-how to do it doesn’t square with her holding a couple of conversations with a flunky and then not noticing that he recycled language from three other campaigns to create what was supposed to be Burke’s unique vision. Furthermore, none of the three campaigns had anything to do with Wisconsin’s economy or specific challenges within the state to job creation, which apparently Burke never bothered to notice.
It’s one thing to have subordinates work on white papers for water management and road maintenance policies in order to close the “we-can-govern” loop. When Burke outsources her core issue to a paid political consultant and winds up with a plan that mostly consists of verbatim passages from the campaigns of out-of-state Democrats, Burke looks like an empty suit — and a lot more interested in the trappings of power than in the work of actual governance.
This is especially ironic, given Burke’s criticism of Walker’s jobs plan in the spring:
Burke released her jobs plan in March after coming under criticism from Republicans for taking months to put it together. In unveiling her proposal, she ripped Walker over his much shorter jobs plan, saying, “I’ve seen 8th grade term papers that have more work put into them.”
Maybe Walker’s plan wouldn’t have received high marks at Harvard, but Burke’s would have gotten her expelled.