Sep 19, 2014 1:53 PM

Burke fires consultant over jobs plan copying

The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Democratic candidate for Wisconsin governor Mary Burke said Friday she cut ties with a consultant she blames for copying several sections of her jobs plan from platforms of other Democrats.

Burke has built her campaign around the jobs issue. One of her key arguments is Republican Gov. Scott Walker doesn't deserve re-election because he hasn't lived up to his promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs, and Wisconsin is lagging other states in adding workers.

Burke told The Associated Press it was her decision to end the campaign's relationship with consultant Eric Schnurer of the Pennsylvania-based consulting firm Public Works, who provided the material in question.

"He should not have used the exact language that he used in other plans," Burke said.

Walker and other Republicans accused Burke of plagiarism.

"It's a sad day for Wisconsin when the Democratic nominee for governor misleads voters by offering a plagiarized jobs plan, in which she has staked her entire candidacy," Walker campaign manager Stephan Thompson said in a written statement.

Burke said she was clear when introducing the plan in March that it included the best ideas from experts around the country about how to create jobs and spur economic development. She said that approach was taken at Trek Bicycles, the company founded in Wisconsin by her father where she worked as a top executive.

She said she has no plans to change the material, which she called a small-part of the 40-page plan.

Schnurer didn't immediately respond Friday to phone, email and Twitter messages.

Another person Burke consulted for the plan was Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, a worldwide expert on business strategy who previously advised Mitt Romney. Porter, in an email to the AP on Friday, said her plan draws on the institute's ideas and experience, but it was crafted solely by Burke's team.

"We found her and her team to be thoughtful, serious, and data driven," Porter said.

Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said the campaign learned of the issue when the website Buzzfeed reported Thursday night that sections of Burke's plan were identical to parts of plans by Delaware Gov. Jack Markell in 2008, Ward Cammack of Tennessee in 2009 and John Gregg of Indiana in 2012.

Burke is the second national politician this week to have to defend against claims of copied material. Monica Wehby, a GOP Senate candidate in Oregon, blamed a former staff member for policy positions that matched those of two other Republicans word for word.

Michael Wagner, a journalism professor and elections expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the Burke case doesn't fit the traditional definition of plagiarism.

"On the one hand, the consultant gave her the plan, so it's not really plagiarism because the person working for her did it," Wagner said. "That consultant, in a way, has self-plagiarized, by sharing the same words with different clients."

Polls since May have shown the race nearly even.


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