Mary Burke, Taxes, and Campaign Incongruity

As an Ivy League-educated millionaire business executive and philanthropist, Mary Burke must understand Wisconsin’s economy, how to grow jobs, and how to create an environment that brings in new companies to the state.

The problem is her campaign for governor is married to tired and leftist dogmas designed to impel social change, not a robust economy.

From the start, her tenure running overseas operations at Trek has been the basis for her candidacy and the cornerstone of her leadership experience. When her jobs plan rolled out in late March, the RPW criticized that Trek employs 800 workers overseas. Burke responded,

“I’m running for governor. I’m not the CEO of Trek. But as governor I want to talk to all Wisconsin companies and see if we can find possibilities where they can bring jobs back to Wisconsin.”

Certainly, Ms. Burke should not be on the hook for Trek’s policies today, but if she is so convicted that employers should bring jobs to Wisconsin, and if she is such a fabulous negotiator, she should be able to influence her own family to encourage their company to put policies into practice that bring jobs to Wisconsin.

To Ms. Burke’s credit, she’s not banging a high heel on the podium calling for higher corporate taxes, though there have been no explicit calls for lower taxes from her campaign, either. Though she likely appreciates and understands the economic benefits of reduced marginal tax rates when she’s alone at home playing with her dogs, publicly advocating such policy would give her average supporter a ruptured aneurysm.

Democrats rely on the story that success is not possible without the government paving the way. They apply this to education, to business, and to family life. Ms. Burke and her family have built a world-renowned company, but not because of the beneficence of the government. Trek has an extensive history of philanthropy that sets a tremendous example for others and admirably supports causes around the state with millions of dollars. This is the company’s prerogative, and its efforts must be applauded. The burden of good corporate citizenship falls onto the company, and it can’t in good conscience be executed under the shadow of bureaucratic dictate.

This again puts Ms. Burke in an uncomfortable and complicated balancing act. Alongside the liberal message of taxing corporations out of fairness, Fox 6 reports that Trek has adeptly avoided corporate income taxes for years. Like she said in March, she’s not the CEO — but she should have to respond to Trek’s practices of not paying taxes. She won’t, because she knows that taxing the rich (the haves, the fortunate, the winners of life’s lottery, insert Democrat blabberingpoint here) isn’t a path to economic success. It’s a tool to buy votes.

What little she did discuss implied that tax rates aren’t top-of-mind for corporations like Trek:

Do they feel the taxes need to change? I don’t think that’s on their top 25 list of things in making sure Trek Bicycle is a successful company.

Below the surface this is problematic for Ms. Burke. High corporate taxes are an impediment to growth, and by arguing that taxes aren’t a major issue for Trek, she helps Governor Walker’s thesis that the business environment has improved since he took office in 2011 — or at least that it hasn’t gotten worse. This does not jibe with her proposition that Wisconsin isn’t better off than it was four years ago.

Not only is the governor and his ticket arguing that his policies have been successful, his nomination speech at the Republican Party of Wisconsin Convention last weekend painted a picture looking toward the future: Don’t you want to be even better off after four more years?

Having rejected a complete repeal of Act 10, Ms. Burke has little to run on, other than the ethereal notion that Scott Walker has failed the state, a claim that is now transcending the partisan and entering the farcical. The best campaign platitude she’s offered is that Scott Walker has created a ton of jobs, but it’s short of his campaign promise. This is like a toddler complaining he only got one popsicle for dessert instead of two.

Her other gripe is that Gov. Walker is too awash in cash thanks to outside interests. She says that informing voters he receives money from groups outside Wisconsin will strike voters of Wisconsin as wrong. This from the woman who spent six figures of bike money to win a school board race.

Ms. Burke is void of vision for Wisconsin. She’s just not Scott Walker, and that’s all it takes to rally her base’s support. Any ideas she has offered trace back to the traditional leftist agenda of tried-and-failed social policies: a distorted and arbitrary minimum wage that crushes small businesses and reining in school voucher programs. Her aversion to any choice in education is obviously a move designed to appease the teachers ticked off that she’s not swinging into action to repeal Act 10. In her philanthropic efforts, she’s always tied charitable giving to benchmarked results, but as governor, her support for unions would necessarily erase results-oriented programs.

Given her background and experiences, Ms. Burke is lying when she says she believes Wisconsin is moving backward under the stewardship of the Walker Administration. She remains the focus-grouped candidate the Democrats are running because Tom Barrett has proven a miserable failure at exciting even his own base. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s belief that Wisconsin voters will not see past Ms. Burke’s polished and artificial veneer to observe a candidate full of incongruence and doublespeak is patently offensive.

The story in Wisconsin the last three years has been one of growth and progress thanks to true leadership and vision divorced from political expediency. Governor Walker governs, as his job tautologically implies, not for optimal poll numbers, but for the successes of his constituents in this state. As the embarrassing failed recall proved to watchers around the state and the nation, conservative policies work, and they are moving Wisconsin forward.

Ms. Burke is different than Scott Walker in many ways, but the most egregious is her manifest insincerity and inauthenticity. Those characteristics might dupe her Democrat acolytes, but it won’t help her become the next governor of Wisconsin.

About the writer: Nik Nelson is publisher of and Founder/CEO of OpenBox Strategies, where he connects political candidates and small businesses with excellent digital marketing tools and strategies.