Boots & Sabers

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1934, 09 Oct 14

Burke’s Dubious Claims

Dan Bice has some interesting insight today.

Burke says she boosted European sales for Trek Bicycle, her family’s business, from $3 million a year in 1990 to $50 million in 1993. Only the former Trek executive says there aren’t any reports, memos, newsletters or other records to support her claim because the Waterloo-based firm is a private company.

But No Quarter has obtained records in recent weeks that show Trek’s overall sales during Burke’s first stint with the firm, providing a context for her assertions. Burke’s campaign team was unaware of the documents.

The records, which come from the state Department of Commerce and a company PowerPoint presentation, show a total increase in Trek’s sales by $107 million from 1990 to 1993.

European sales are not broken out.

In addition, an old Milwaukee Journal story quotes a company official saying Trek’s overseas sales rose by only $30 million from 1991 to 1994. Those numbers include not only Europe but also Canada and Japan.

Burke’s claim is central to her political identity. It is the single achievement to which she points to validate her claim to be a skilled business executive. And yet it is a claim that she has never been able to support with any evidence. We are supposed to just take her word that (a) the numbers are accurate and (b) she was the primary driver of that growth.

Now we find out that the growth numbers, extraordinary as they are, would have to have been downright spectacular to be accurate. If Trek sales grew by $107 million during the time of Burke’s claim, then that would mean that Trek’s growth in Europe accounted for almost half of the overall growth in sales for the company. It’s possible, but unlikely when it was also a time of growth for the company in the U.S.

But the old MJS story is even more damning. In a time roughly equivalent to the time of Burke’s claim – with two overlapping years – a Trek official said that the company’s overseas sales only grew by $30 million. That includes Canada and Japan. Burke is claiming that European sales grew $47 million from ’90 to ’93 while the company official is saying that the growth was only $30 million from ’91 to ’94. There are only one way that those numbers could both be true.

Remember that we are talking about revenue and not profit, so there is no scenario that the Japanese and Canadian figures could have drug down overall overseas sales. It also couldn’t be that Trek’s overseas sales grew by at least $47 million from ’90 to ’93 and then collapsed in ’94 because the overall growth for the time period would have still been at least $47 million compared to the baseline. The only way both of those numbers could be true would be if the vast majority of the growth in Burke’s claim happened in the first year. For example, if European sales grew $35 million in ’90 and only $12 million until ’93 – thus leaving $18 million in additional growth for ’94, Japan, and Canada to fill the gap to $30 million total. Of course that would mean that the vast majority of Burke’s claimed growth in sales happened in the first year before she had a chance to actually do anything to influence that number.

Or, we could apply Occam’s razor and reach the simplest conclusion… Burke is lying. Given her failure to substantiate her claim, it is the most likely explanation.


1934, 09 October 2014


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