Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Mary Burke

From Beyond the Political Grave…

I received my holiday card from Mary Burke


Dear Friends,

Happy Holidays!


I hope this message finds you spending time with family and friends – catching up, reflecting on the year behind us, and thinking of the possibilities for the years ahead.

I am so grateful for all that you have done for me this past year. I truly hope that you are relaxing and spending time with your loved ones this holiday season.

Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year, from my family to yours!

Mary, Rosie and Gema


Burke Runs for Reelection

for the Madison School Board.

Mary Burke, the incumbent Madison School Board member who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Scott Walker last month, confirmed Friday that she will seek re-election in April. But Arlene Silveira, the longest-serving board member and in her second stint as president, will not seek another term.

I admit, this surprises me a bit. I didn’t think she would run again after he defeat in November. At least it is a far more appropriate job for her than governor.

Schnurer Defends Burke’s Copied Jobs Plan


Schnurer, who wrote that he works mostly with Democrats but also three Republican governors, including two unnamed potential 2016 contenders, called Burke’s campaign “perhaps the most efficient and detail-oriented with which I’ve ever worked.”

Schnurer attributed the error in Burke’s jobs plan to deadline pressure.

He said that in the final hours before publication his team drew from their previous work for other campaigns and rewrote it “to avoid any suggestion of impropriety,” but the plan had undergone so many revisions that the edits and footnotes in track-changes mode made the document look like the Tokyo subway map.

“In the heat of the final changes, someone obviously didn’t incorporate the proper text,” Schnurer wrote. “That’s politics. However it occurred, I’ll take the blame, because my work ultimately failed my client.”

He kind of undercuts his characterization of the Burke campaign being “detail-oriented” when he goes on to try to explain the plagiarism scandal as a mistake made in the “heat of final changes.” Plus, it is worth noting that there wasn’t any kind of deadline to release a plan – except perhaps a self-imposed deadline. Remember that this plan was released months after she began campaigning and people were asking for it. If it was truly just a mistake made in the heat of final drafting, why couldn’t they wait another day to fix it before releasing it?

Given that there wasn’t a real deadline here, there are only two obvious scenarios. Scenario #1 is that it is as Schnurer says and it was a mistake made in the bustle of getting it out according to a deadline. Given that there was not an external deadline, this would indicate that Burke failed to properly review it and delay the release until it was right. That would be an indication of poor leadership and a failure to be “detail-oriented.” Scenario #2 is that it is as it appears… Burke plagiarized others’ work and just figured it wasn’t a big deal. In a friendly media environment, nobody thought ahead enough to consider the ramifications of being exposed.

But the more interesting question is why is Schnurer talking now? Why two days after Burke’s failed campaign came to an end? The story indicates that he promised the Burke campaign to stay silent for the duration of the campaign, but his comments would probably have aided Burke’s defense during the campaign. My best guess is that Schnurer is just trying to control the damage to his own reputation.

Deconstructing Mary Burke’s Resume

In light of the recent news that Mary Burke was fired from Trek, it is worthwhile to evaluate her resume in more depth. I briefly examined her job history in a column last month, but let’s take a closer look from the perspective of a potential future employer.

After graduating with an MBA from Harvard, Burke was a consultant for a couple of companies for a couple of years. This is a relatively common and easy path for a newly-minted Harvard grad to take. After a short tenure with no notable achievements, Burke was hired by her father’s company to run their European operations in 1993. After three years in this position, Burke left the company for a two-year snowboarding sabbatical.

This is an interesting event in Burke’s job history. Burke originally claimed that after doing a remarkable job and growing sales from $3 million to $50 million, she was burnt out (after a whopping 5 years in the job force) and decided to take some time off.  In recent reports, two former executives – including her boss’ boss – shared with news outlets that Burke was fired for poor performance. Since that revelation, Burke has changed her story and now says that her position was eliminated after the company restructured.

Let’s examine that… let’s pretend for a moment that we believe Burke’s new story. Does it make sense? She has claimed that she grew sales from $3 million to $50 million in three years. If true, that is an incredible achievement. Unfortunately, she has never backed up that claim with any proof. We are supposed to take her at her word despite some news stories from the period that appear to make her claim almost impossible. So we are supposed to believe that after this remarkable success, she was restructured out of a job at her family’s own company? If she was so good, why wasn’t she promoted? Or snapped up by another company? Good executives are difficult to come by and a successful one should have been able to find a new position quickly.

But she didn’t. She went snowboarding for two years.

What is more likely closer to the truth? An amazingly talented and successful executive quits to take two years off after three years of work? Or that she was failing and we eased out of the company before she could do more damage?

The rest of her resume begins to answer that question. After Burke’s time away, she returned to Trek in a non-management position where she worked for another 9 years. She neither claims, nor does anyone note, any particularly impressive achievements during that period. It appears to have been a job to give her something to do where she could contribute, get paid, and generally stay out of the way. What is also worth noting is that after her self-celebrated remarkable achievements during her previous stint at Trek, she was not put in an upper-management position. It is not what one would call a promising career progression for someone who claimed to be a talented executive.

After 9 years of mediocrity at Trek, she was appointed as Commerce Secretary for Governor Doyle. As a rich lefty donor with a private sector history, it was a sensible appointment for Doyle. Her short, two-year tenure in government was not marked with any notable achievements. She again quit, or was squeezed out, with different stories for why. Her predecessor labeled her performance a “disaster.”

Mary Burke spent the next 7 years unemployed. She dropped over $100k to be elected to the Madison School Board. And now she wants to be governor.

If you were on a Board of Directors looking at resumes for a potential CEO for a $25 billion organization, would you hire her? What I see is a person who started out her career in a promising fashion. She is highly educated and quickly took a high-level job – even though it was with her family’s company. After three years where she claims to have been successful, but can’t document that success, she left and took two years off. She claims she was downsized, but her former boss’ boss and the head of HR at the time say she was let go for poor performance. After two years off, she returned to her family’s company and pushed paper for almost a decade before getting a job in politics. Since then she’s been unemployed.

Is she qualified to run a $25 billion organization with tens of thousands of employees?

I think not.

Turnout Expected at 57%

Not that their history with predicting these things is very accurate, but…

Statewide turnout in Tuesday’s election is expected to be the highest for a midterm election in at least 64 years, but still shy of the 2012 recall election, according to the state’s nonpartisan election agency.

The Government Accountability Board is predicting turnout will reach 2.5 million, or 56.5 percent of the state’s voting-age population.

That would be just short of the 57.8 percent turnout in the 2012 gubernatorial recall election, but far lower than the 70 percent turnout level for the 2012 presidential election, GAB director Kevin Kennedy noted.

The more I think about this election, the more I think that Walker is going to win handily. He beat Barrett in the recall election by 7 points. That was at a time when passions were at the absolute highest on both sides. In the macro sense, nothing has really changed since then. No significant legislation has been passed. No major shifts have happened in the economy or employment picture. There haven’t been any major scandals. There are no major shifts in any of the key dynamics since the recall election.

Also, Burke is a far weaker candidate than Barrett. Barrett was a well-known former Congressman and mayor of Wisconsin’s largest city. He was well-liked and was well-funded for the election. By contrast, Burke came into the race as an unknown with no elected experience (save a short stint on a school board) and a sketchy resume.

Without anything shifting, I have a hard time picturing any voter having changed their mind about Walker since the recall election. The people who hate him do so just as much as they did in 2012. The people who support him do so just as much as they did in 2012. If everyone just shows up and votes like they did in the recall election, Walker wins easily. And in this case, the weak candidacy of Burke will likely keep a fair number of independents and core Democratic constituencies from turning out in great fashion.

Predictions are always iffy, but put me down for a Walker win. If I have to put a number on it, I’ll say Walker 54, Burke 46.

That being said… get out there and vote, folks.

More Confirmation That Burke Was Fired From Trek

Again… not shocking for anyone who knows how to spot red flags in resumes. It is just remarkable that after months and months of campaigning, the media is just now getting around to discovering this less than a week before the election.

Two former high-level executives of Trek Bicycle claim that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke was forced out as head of European operations for her family’s business 21 years ago — an allegation that Burke and the company denied, labeling it a last-minute smear campaign.

“I’m not saying she was incompetent,” said Tom Albers, former Trek chief operating officer who left the company in 1997. “Maybe this job was too big for her.”


Albers said in an interview Wednesday that he was sent to Europe by Richard Burke, the company founder and Mary Burke’s father, to look into problems with the European sales expansion that Mary Burke had been entrusted to head up in the early 1990s.

Albers said John Burke had concerns that his sister was not working out as the point person on the difficult job of switching from outside distributors of Trek bikes in Europe to a company sales force that spanned different countries, cultures and languages.

“I came back and pretty much reinforced what John Burke had told (Richard Burke) that this wasn’t working, and a change had to be made and a change was made,” Albers said. “I felt she was under water and it was going to be very difficult to turn it around.”

Burke Misstated Fundraising Numbers

Uh huh.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has raised about $900,000 less over the past three months than her campaign originally said.

Burke’s campaign on Monday issued a press release saying she had raised about $10.2 million in the roughly three month period that ended Oct. 20. But in her official filing with state elections officials, made later Monday night, Burke reported raising about $9.3 million.

Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki says the $10.2 million figure referred to how much the campaign had raised to date, not counting $5 million that Burke herself contributed.

The stories were obviously about the most recent filing. If Zepecki is telling the truth, then this episode is a case of incompetence. More likely, he is not telling the truth and the campaign just wanted to be able to claim that they raised as much as Walker to cover for their abysmal fundraising.


Walker Pulls Ahead in Latest Marquette Poll

Beware of polls… but this is promising.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker leads Democratic challenger Mary Burke 50% to 43% among likely voters in a new survey by the Marquette University Law School.

That represents a change from other surveys in recent weeks — including Marquette’s previous poll two weeks ago — showing the race essentially tied.

Marquette surveyed 1,164 likely voters from last Thursday through Sunday. The poll has margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The race is much tighter among all registered voters — with Walker leading Burke 46% to 45%.

the shift toward Walker among the most likely voters in the poll reflects a spike in the share of Republicans who say they are certain to vote.

In Marquette’s last poll, 82% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats said they were certain to vote.

In the new poll, 93% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats said they were certain to vote. Those numbers, reflecting a potential turnout gap between the parties, are similar to what voters were reporting before the recall election of 2012, which Walker won by 7 points.

Burke Fired From Trek

Wow. Burke has based her entire electoral justification on her alleged business acumen despite the numerous red flags that she is incompetent as an executive. This puts a nail in that coffin if anyone in the electorate cares anymore.

D. Kittle / October 28, 2014 / No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. – In attempting to explain her two-year work hiatus in the early to mid-1990s, Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke has said she was just burned out after an intense period of leading European operations for Trek Bicycle Corp. , her family’s Waterloo-based global manufacturer.

In fact, Burke apparently was fired by her own family following steep overseas financial losses and plummeting morale among Burke’s European sales staff, multiple former Trek executives and employees told Wisconsin Reporter.

The sales team threatened to quit if Burke was not removed from her position as director of European Operations, according to Gary Ellerman, who served as Trek’s human resources director for more than 21 years. His account was confirmed by three other former employees.

“She was not performing. She was (in) so far over her head. She didn’t understand the bike business,” said Ellerman who started with Trek in 1992, at the tail end of Burke’s first stint as a manager at Trek.

Half of Burke’s Recent Fundraising Comes From Own Checking Account

Well, that explains a lot.

From July 29 to Oct. 20, Walker raised $10.4 million and Burke raised $10.2 million, according to their campaigns. Burke said she has put $5 million of her own money into the race, with about $4.5 million of that coming in recent months.

Like it or not, fundraising is one of the best indicators of a candidate’s real support. Anybody can say that they support a candidate, but it takes a real supporter to part with their own money to help finance the campaign. The fact that Burke raised half as much as Walker in the final months of the campaign tells us that her campaign has failed to catch fire in the grass roots and also failed to attract many of the big donors who are willing to bet on her victory.

In light of this fundraising report, the move by Burke to bring the unpopular president into Wisconsin today to campaign in an overwhelmingly Democratic district (boost turnout) and attend a high-dollar fundraiser (raise the big money that Burke can’t) makes a lot of sense.

Burke Supports Pay Increases, But Not the Tax Increase to Fund It


Burke, who joined colleagues to support the teacher pay increase, said she could not support the overall budget and passing the 4.2 percent levy increase to taxpayers who are being squeezed.

What a farce. There isn’t a thinking person alive who believes that Burke would have voted against the tax increase had she not been running for governor.

Obama to Campaign for Burke


President Obama heads to Milwaukee on Tuesday to campaign for Mary Burke, who is locked in a close contest with Republican incumbent Scott Walker for Wisconsin governor.

With Democrats all around the country running from Obama, Burke welcomes him with open arms. Why? Has she abandoned trying to win the undecideds and moderates and is focused on just turning out her base where Obama is still popular? Is she delusional in thinking that Obama is going to swing undecideds and moderates?


Burke Would Abandon Current Job If She Wins

What?!?! Mary Burke wouldn’t finish her term if she wins higher office? Shocking!

Mary Burke would leave her seat on the Madison School Board if she prevails in the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election, a campaign spokesman said Thursday.

Of course, this would make perfect sense. But the lefties don’t seem to think that’s appropriate when it comes to Republicans.

“Disaster” Burke

Oh, I’m sure she will be better as governor. After all, she has had 7 unemployed years to reflect.

Nettles described Burke as a “disaster” in the email sent to Doyle adviser Aaron Olver, who was third in charge at the Commerce Department under both Nettles and Burke. Nettles was forwarding an email from John Torinus, the former chief executive officer at printing company Serigraph Inc.

Torinus described frustration with Burke following an economic development meeting.

“She sees a continuing need to have a war chest to help individual companies for political reasons, but doesn’t really believe that many of these projects are justified,” Torinus wrote Nettles.

Burke v. Walker: Round One

The first debate between Burke and Walker just wrapped up. I’ll have some comments later. Until then… go.

UPDATE: Overall… yawn. There were a couple of interesting moments, but most of the debate was pretty boring. The questions were predictably from the liberal talking points most of the time and the responses were largely right on script for both candidates. The most interesting moment was when each candidate was asked to talk about something good about their opponent. Walker went first and lauded Burke for her philanthropic work. Burke, despite having all of the time during Walker’s response to think, started with an “uh” and a long pause before giving a bland response about Walker’s work “in the community” including his work regarding domestic violence – directly contradicting one of her “war on women” campaign planks.

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.

Burke Campaign Asks About Sex and Race of Photographers


On Sunday, Burke’s campaign sent an email to press outlets requesting the full name, Social Security number, sex and race of any photographers seeking to be near the first lady.

Newsroom leaders with the Wisconsin State Journal questioned the relevance of the race information with Burke’s campaign, which referred questions Monday to the Secret Service. The Secret Service punted to the first lady’s press office, which said it would respond only to written questions submitted by email. By early Monday evening, it had not responded to the submitted questions.

The story says that the Secret Service asked for the information and it was a mistake. What an odd mistake. One would think that a Secret Service screen prior to a visit like this is pretty routine. It should be a form questionnaire that they use all the time, shouldn’t it? So how do these questions pop up as a mistake?

Furthermore, while folks are outraged by the question about race, what about the question about sex? How is that relevant? The name and SSN make sense to run a background check, but asking about sex and gender just seem odd.

Fight for the Female Vote


The fight for the female vote comes as the race remains razor-thin, despite a massive gender divide. Last week’s Marquette University Law School poll showed Walker with a 28-point lead among men, but Burke with a 14-point advantage among women.

Have you ever noticed how these stories are positioned as the candidates needing to woo the female vote? It appears to me that Burke has a lot of work to do to woo the male vote.



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