In March of this year Mary Burke, the Democratic candidate challenging incumbent Republican Scott Walker in this fall’s Wisconsin gubernatorial election, approved the release of a jobs plan that, it now turns out, contains numerous passages plagiarized from the jobs plans of several recent Democratic gubernatorial candidates in other states and at least one passage plagiarized from an Obama White House press release.
After BuzzFeed broke the story on Thursday, the Burke campaign announced Friday that it had “terminated” the consultant who had prepared the 40-page jobs plan. Prior to this announcement, the consultant, Eric Schnurer of the Philadelphia firm Public Works, had not been listed as someone associated with the campaign, nor had he received attribution for his work creating the plan.
Burke did not offer an explanation for why her campaign had failed to discover the massive plagiarism prior to the release of the plan and during the six months since its release that she has been touting it as her own.
Significant sections of the plan, titled “Mary Burke’s Plan: Invest for Success,” are word-for-word copies of paragraphs found in plans of failed Democratic gubernatorial campaigns going back to 2008, as well as one instance where it copied a press release from the Obama White House.
This passage identified by BuzzFeed, for instance, first appeared in the jobs plan put forward by Ward Cammack, a Democratic candidate for governor in Tennessee, whose campaign lasted several months in 2009 before he withdrew from the race:
These institutions can provide a wide range of support to small farmers to help them to improve farm profitability. Research and new technologies have played a significant role to increase yields and reduce costs throughout the agricultural system.
Here’s the word-for-word copy of those two sentences, found on page 31 of Burke’s 2014 jobs plan:
These institutions can provide a wide range of support to a new generation of small farmers to help them to improve productivity and profitability. Research and new technologies have played a significant role to increase yields and reduce costs throughout the agricultural system.
Again, this sentence from Cammack’s plan, first identified by BuzzFeed, “Expanding intern programs to provide help to small farmers and also give students direct agricultural education and experience,” was reproduced verbatim on page 31 of Burke’s 2014 jobs plan:
Expanding intern programs to provide help to small farmers and also give students direct agricultural education and experience.
The Burke jobs plan did not limit its verbatim plagiarism to fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates.
Here’s a passage from a February 25, 2014 press release from the Obama White House:
…bridging the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.
Here’s the same passage, copied on page 9 of Burke’s 2014 jobs plan:
…bridging the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, and federal agencies to co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.
The main theme of Burke’s campaign has been that she can bring the experiences from her business career at Trek Bicycle, where she says she developed a reputation for success and integrity, to the job of governor.
Recent polls show Burke trails Walker.
For her part, Burke tried to minimize the importance of the plagiarized passages. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on Friday that “Burke downplayed the controversy [in a phone interview Friday morning], stating that this was a relatively minor mistake being driven by political forces hoping to distract voters from the latest poor jobs numbers.”
The Journal-Sentinel added, “Despite the problem passages, Burke said she still stood behind her economic development proposal. She said she did not believe the issue would undermine her credibility or that of her jobs plan… She said she had no plans to modify the report.”
Voters in Wisconsin will be able to read for themselves the numerous examples of plagiarism in that plan between now and election day in November. In addition to the verbatim examples of plagiarism, there are also numerous nearly verbatim copies of passages. Here’s a passage from Cammack’s 2009 plan:
We can make new advances in technology – GPS systems to guide farm machinery and reduce overlap, early pest detection, identification of soil nutrient deficiencies, detection of plant stress, use of yield monitoring equipment – all advances that can significantly help the small farmer.
Here’s a passage from page 31 of Burke’s 2014 plan:
New technologies – like GPS systems to guide farm machinery and reduce overlap, early pest detection, identification of soil nutrient deficiencies, detection of plant stress, use of yield monitoring equipment – can significantly help farmers be more productive.
This passage, as identified by BuzzFeed, first appeared in the jobs plan of Democrat John Gregg, who run unsuccessfully for governor of Indiana in 2012.
After decades of “offshoring” – the practice of moving American manufacturing to countries abroad in search of cheaper labor companies are beginning to realize that moving much of their manufacturing and supply operations away from their U.S. consumer base has hurt their ability to meet their customers’ expectations. A recent survey of 287 manufacturing companies doing business internationally found that the majority of the respondents (61 percent) were currently considering “reshoring” – or shifting their manufacturing operations closer to their U.S. customers to provide better service, cut costs, and speed growth. Nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents reported facing issues with delivery time, operational planning, maintaining low inventories and competitive total cost, and general flexibility, as a result of offshoring their manufacturing and supply operations – and 46 percent have experienced product quality concerns.
Here’s what that passage looked like on page 25 of Burke’s 2014 jobs plan:
“Offshoring” (or “outsourcing”) American manufacturing jobs to other localities where labor is cheaper has been the dismal trend for over thirty years. But today, many companies are beginning to realize that moving their manufacturing and supply operations overseas has hurt their ability to serve their customers. A recent survey of manufacturers with operations abroad found that well over half (61%) were considering “reshoring”- or “in-sourcing” – their manufacturing operations back to the U.S. to be closer to their customers, to provide better service, and to cut transportation costs. Nearly half of these manufacturers (49%) reported that overseas they experienced problems with delivery time, operations, planning, flexibility, and total cost – and 46% experienced quality control issues.
BuzzFeed also identified numerous additional examples of verbatim or nearly verbatim plagiarism where Burke’s 2014 jobs plan lifted passages from the 2008 jobs plan of Democrat Jack Markell, who won his race for governor of Delaware that year, and the 2009 jobs plan of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who lost his race for governor of Virginia that year but ran again and won in 2013.