MADISON, Wis. — Republican Gov. Scott Walker launched a television ad Wednesday attacking Democratic challenger Mary Burke for her deep connections with Trek Bicycle Corp. and the company moving some jobs overseas in recent years.
Burke, who worked as an executive at Trek in the 1990s and 2000s, cites her experience at the company — started by her father — as one of the major reasons why she would be better than Walker at creating jobs in the state and improving Wisconsin's economy. But she has said she had nothing to do with Trek's decision to create manufacturing jobs in China, though Burke still owns stock in the privately traded company.
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your fortune grow?" a grandmotherly looking woman in Walker's ad says as she reads a nighttime story showing images of Burke holding bags with dollar signs on them. "By making millions of dollars sending jobs overseas that could have been done in Wisconsin."
Burke worked as the head of Trek's European division from 1991 to 1993. During that time, Burke says she grew sales from $3 million to $50 million. She also worked for Trek from 1995 until 2004, with her most recent job being director of planning and strategic planning.
In 2004, shortly before she left, Trek outsourced 80 employees from its Whitewater facility to Waterloo and to a manufacturing plant in China. In 2012, up to 20 former Trek employees in Waterloo were laid off. The U.S. Labor Department last year determined they were eligible for federal assistance because they lost their jobs due to foreign trade.
"How can the voters trust someone like Mary Burke to help them create jobs when her own company shipped Wisconsin jobs overseas?" Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said.
Burke frequently notes that Trek employs nearly 1,000 people in Wisconsin, its payroll doubled over the last 20 years and it infuses almost $100 million into the state's economy every year.
Trek spokeswoman Marina Marich said the company was "dismayed by the Walker campaign's decision to attack it in its latest political ad."
"Only last year the administration featured Trek as an exemplary company doing business in Wisconsin," Marich said.
Before Burke got into the race, the state's Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation picked Trek as one of five companies to highlight as part of a yearlong marketing campaign to encourage other businesses to move or expand in the state. After Burke got into the race, WEDC began phasing out the Trek ads.
Walker created WEDC, a semi-private agency, to replace the Commerce Department which Burke had led for nearly three years between 2005 and 2007.
The new Walker ad also comes on the heels of news that WEDC approved millions of dollars in tax breaks to Eaton Corp. and Plexus Corp., two companies which later outsourced jobs in Wisconsin to foreign countries. Burke has criticized those companies getting tax breaks, which caused Walker's campaign to say Burke was being hypocritical.