BARABOO NEWS REPUBLIC: WI state chamber's main product is misinformation

December 4, 2014
Pat Nash
news photo

Well, it’s over. Republicans won their battle to re-elect Gov. Scott Walker and retain their majority in the Legislature. One of the reasons they won is due to the state’s chamber of commerce, the biggest business group in Wisconsin.

When most people think of a chamber of commerce, they think of an organization that works to increase business and prosperity in their state or community. When they think of its members, they think of people who work hard to run a business and want everyone in the community to thrive. And most of us assume that the leaders of these groups are people with integrity.

I do believe that most members of the state’s chamber of commerce, otherwise known as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, believe the traits of honesty and responsibility are essential to good business practices. They want their organization to have a clean reputation because it represents the state when trying to attract new and out-of-state businesses to Wisconsin. That’s why I’m calling on those members to make drastic changes to their organization.

Why? Because WMC has abandoned all of those traits to advance an agenda that is now characterized by greed and dishonesty. The sleazy ads it sponsored and ran against gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke intentionally misled the voters with lies, slander, unsupported allegations and intentional misinformation. That does not help the state, the WMC, or the reputation of its members.

One of the ads associated Mary Burke with Wisconsin’s loss of 130,000 jobs during the Great Recession that started in 2008. The WMC counted on the fact that most voters wouldn’t know she left the Department of Commerce in 2007, long before those jobs were lost.

Politifact, a reputable fact-checker, noted on March 5 that The National Governors Association ads blaming Burke for the 130,000 job loss were “Mostly False. Indeed, the state’s private sector employment actually grew during Burke’s specific time as Commerce secretary.”

It went on to state that, during Burke’s tenure as Secretary of Commerce, the state gained more than 55,000 jobs and employment numbers rose. The job losses touted in the ads didn’t take place until the national recession when, despite the troubled economy, Wisconsin fared better than most other states. The article also disclosed figures proving that Wisconsin gained more than 94,000 jobs from the start of Doyle’s tenure to the end of Burke’s.

Having it deemed false in March didn’t stop WMC from spreading the lies. Right up until Tuesday’s election the organization ran ads with the same misinformation. The WMC counted on the fact that most voters are too busy or lazy to do their own fact-checking. I guess they were right.

Many Republican voters also believed WMC’s ads that claimed Mary Burke was fired from Trek Bicycle, a company founded by her father. That allegation originated from a former Trek employee, who really was fired for incompetence. The same unfounded allegation came from a Republican operative and friend of Scott Walker who sleazily posed as a Democrat during the recall elections. The current CEO of Trek and several Trek employees who were there at the time called the allegations a lie.

The WMC also has been complicit in distorting the facts about Wisconsin’s “growing” economy by ignoring reports by the Census on Employment and Wages that show Wisconsin ranked worse in job growth for the past three years than it did when Doyle was governor during the national recession. Why would the members of this group support an administration that’s so poor at reviving the economy?

Is this the kind of organization with which local businesses want to be associated? One that lies to win elections? What about the customers of these businesses or their boards and employees? Will they continue to support such tactics in order to shift the tax burden to lower income people and roll back consumers’ rights? Who will support these businesses and buy their products if Wisconsinites can’t afford healthcare or rent?

And a few more questions for members of the WMC: Are you aware of what WMC is doing in your name? Are you paying attention? I sincerely believe you’re better than that. It’s time to overhaul the WMC from within so that it truly supports business integrity, economic growth and the hard-working citizens that are a large part of any business’s success.

More Info: 

For more info on Wisconsin Wave's WMC-Free Wisconsin campaign to take back our government from big money, visit http://wisconsinwave.org/shut-chamber-wisconsin