ANATOMY OF A SMEAR: GOP operative says 11th-hour allegations against Mary Burke were an "October Surprise" | WisCommunity

ANATOMY OF A SMEAR: GOP operative says 11th-hour allegations against Mary Burke were an "October Surprise"

On Joy Cardin's political "Week in Review" program Friday, broadcast over Wisconsin Public Radio, the discussion turned to the Republican smear  (based exclusively on pure, unsupported assertion by, well, other Republicans) that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke was "fired" from her family's Trek Bicycle Corporation 20 years ago.

In that program, statewide listeners heard guest Chris Lato make a couple of revealing, even startling statements. Lato is a former communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. He said Republicans held their fire until this week because the accusation "was clearly meant to be a bombshell to rattle people" in the closing days of the campaign.

How candid of him to confirm all our suspicions about this awful, unethical, and factually unsupported assault on a GOP political opponent. Business as usual, over there in politics-is-war, take-no-prisoners GOP land. 

Lato said the allegation "was quite an October Surprise," a phrase referring to Republican eleventh-hour sensationalism in campaigning dating back to 1972 and Richard Nixon's re-election game plan. Good to know that operatives from the GOP admit their party still pulls these sordid stunts. 

Lato added more fuel to the fire, saying, "Whether you like it or not, this is bare-knuckles campaigning." Well, at least the GOP isn't actually sending goons to physically rough up Burke, although their verbal assaults are figuratively as violent.

By the way, those Republicans Lato mentioned, who for months knew of the accusations from other Republicans? They included Gov. Scott Walker, who in a separate interview this week said he'd heard of the accusation months ago. Cozy little bunch, huh. Walker pretends to be above it all, but if indeed he did know this was coming, he certainly didn't try to stop it. Not to decide is to decide, Scotty.

The Republican cabal holding this smear in hand until just the optimal moment also included a couple of ex-Trek executives, one of whom really was fired; he ran for public office as a pretend Democrat in the recall elections and his Facebook page has been full of racist, anti-Democrat comments and images. A third person pushing this eleventh-hour smear against Burke and her family's upstanding and otherwise celebrated Wisconsin business is Joe Fadness, executive director of the state GOP. According to the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Gazette alternative newspaper, Fadness is yet a third former Trek employee.

Wow, three ex-Trek employees, dumping on their former employer aloud, and upon Mary Burke, one of the former officers and family members running that company. That'll sure be bad PR when Republicans in the future try to cozy up to promising businesses in the state. Economic de-development!

Lato had more to say on the subject, claiming it was fair game for the Wisconsin GOP to use the smear with six days to go in the election, but then reflecting: "I don't even know if fairness enters into it," because "these are issues we're going to discuss." He characterized the accusation as ""a dagger in the heart of the Mary Burke campaign."

Let's hope instead there are many decent, honorable voters who in response to all this sleaze will instead shove that dagger into the Walker campaign. 

Lato, by the way, lives in Jefferson County, where the GOP party chair is that ex-Trek guys who let out this "bombshell" along with those racist statements on his Facebook page, and, oh yeah, posed for a portrait of himself standing shoulder to shoulder with Walker.

So, to recap: The Walker campaign against Burke started out months ago attacking Trek Bicycle for supposed "outsourcing," then moved on to make smarmy remarks about Burke taking a break from her Trek career "to go snowboarding," then moved on to their wildly over-the-top "she's a plagiarist" claim, and finally returned to a second swipe against Trek, with Burke herself thrown in for good measure. Classy bunch, these Republicans, don't you think?  

I couldn't blame Trek for moving its operations out of Wisconsin, if Walker wins after all this.

You can hear Lato pontificating about all this beginning at 16:30 of the 49-minute podcast. It's too big a file to upload here, so click on the first the link below or try the mp3 link further down. Commenting in defense of Burke during the segment is Christine Bremer-Muggli, a Wausau lawyer and past member of the Democratic National Committee. Lato treats her rather shabbily with various put-downs, of a kind that in GOP-land aren't just reserved for a woman running for office but other women, too.


November 1, 2014 - 11:15am