Burke opposes out-of-state political contributions – unless they help her campaign

Adam Tobias
Aug 29, 2014 5:00 AM
Burke opposes out-of-state political contributions – unless they help her campaign
AP file photo

HYPOCRISY: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said out-of-state political donations make her “sick.” That was before she met Vermont-based Democracy for America.


By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has declared she’ll outlaw out-of-state political donations if elected, but enthusiastically accepted the endorsement Thursday of a Vermont-based political action committee soliciting cash and volunteers nationally to help Burke unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Burke received the endorsement from Democracy for America, a national progressive political action committee founded by Howard Dean, former Democratic National Committee chairman and former governor of Vermont.

A Madison Metropolitan School Board member and commerce secretary under former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, Burke has asserted on several occasions that she would ban out-of-state political donations if elected governor.

“It makes me sick to think that people from outside of the state are going to influence and possibly buy our governorship,” Burke said.

Despite those assertions, Burke was ebullient about the Democracy for America endorsement. The group’s pledge comes with the promise that it will seek donations for her campaign and mobilize thousands of volunteers to solicit political contributions “from grassroots progressives in the Badger State and throughout the country.”

“I’m so honored to have the support of Democracy for America in my campaign to be the first woman Governor in Wisconsin’s history,” Burke said in a news release. “We need a new direction in Wisconsin — and with the support of the DFA community I am more confident than ever that this fall we will defeat Scott Walker.”

Campaign finance and elections expert Hans von Spakovsky called Burke a hypocrite and criticized her for saying anyone outside of Wisconsin should be barred from any kind of political activity in the state.

“That’s the same attitude that unrepentant Southerners had against the people they supposedly called ‘carpetbaggers’ during Reconstruction,” said von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the conservative Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and a former member of the Federal Election Commission.

Von Spakovsky told Wisconsin Reporter Burke’s actions show she also doesn’t understand the protections of the First Amendment.

“It sends a message that she wants to restrict the activity of people she doesn’t agree with, rather than the American tradition of encouraging more speech and as much speech as possible,” von Spakovsky said. “And I think she should be seriously questioned about that attitude.”

Burke’s campaign did not respond to Wisconsin Reporter’s requests for an interview.

Burke, a millionaire who served as an executive at her family’s Trek Bicycle Corp., has raised about $3.6 million in the first six months of the year, with nearly $1.1 million coming from outside of the state, according to the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

But that total is sure to increase with the help of Democracy for America.

“Democracy for America members in Wisconsin and across the country can’t wait to knock on every door and make every phone call necessary to send Mary Burke to Madison and end Scott Walker’s political career once and for all,” Chairman Jim Dean said in a statement.

The liberal organization says it raised more than $125,000 in 48 hours during the recall elections in 2011 and 2012, which were spurred by Act 10, Walker’s signature law that reformed collective bargaining among public-sector unions. The group says its members also knocked on more than 123,000 doors and made more than 382,000 calls.

Since Democracy for America was founded in 2004, the groups says its members have contributed more than $31 million, made nearly 8.9 million volunteer calls and elected 802 progressive candidates across the country.

“We’ve all seen and felt the damage that Republican policies have done to our proud state and its reputation,” Democracy for America campaign director Karli Wallace Thompson said in an email sent to DFA members Thursday morning. “We’ve worked way too hard over countless election cycles to pull our punches now. This might be our one real chance to rid the political world of Scott Walker once and for all. We could destroy any shot he has at a 2016 presidential nomination — and return some semblance of sanity to Madison.”

The latest poll released Wednesday by the Marquette University Law School shows Walker with 47.5 percent of the likely vote over Burke, who is projected to garner 44.1 percent. Another 5.5 percent say they are undecided.

The poll was conducted Aug. 21-24 using landlines and cell phones. The margin of error of 815 registered surveyed was plus or minus 3.5 percent. The poll of 609 likely voters had a margin of error of 4.1 percent.

The race was tighter in Marquette’s July poll. Then, Walker had support of 45.8 percent of those surveyed, while Burke had 44.8 percent.