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Mary Burke’s taxing resume problems

By   /   October 24, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — Mary Burke’s resume, much like the Democratic candidate for governor, has gone through a lot of changes — particularly during the course of her campaign.

And some new tax records obtained by Wisconsin Reporter beg more questions about Burke’s shifting employment record.

Burke is running against incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker in next month’s election.

There is “no record” of Mary Burke on Wisconsin’s income tax rolls in 1988.

That’s peculiar because Burke did pay $3,514 in 1987, and $3,750 in income taxes in 1989, according to a document from the state Department of Revenue’s Central Tax Audit Section listing Burke’s tax liabilities in the 198os.

AP photo

TAX GAP: Tax return documents obtained by Wisconsin Reporter indicate Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke was not listed in the state Department of Revenue’s database as an income taxpayer in 1988, although her resume lists her working at her father’s Wisconsin holding company that year.

But Burke is a no-show in 1988, with the agency having no record of the gubernatorial candidate in its tax database for that year.

Her resume for the now-defunct state Department of Commerce, which Burke ran for two years under former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, notes that Burke worked for Intrepid Corp. between 1986 and 1989. She served as vice president of finance and chief financial officer for the holding company founded by her father, Rickard Burke, who also started Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle Corp.

As a Wisconsin State Journal fluff piece on prospective gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke noted in August 2013, Burke asked her dad for a job at Intrepid just before graduating from Harvard Business School in 1985. There wasn’t an opening at the time.

Perhaps Burke was paying taxes in New York in 1988. Her resume does note that she was founder and owner of her failed start-up, Manhattan Intelligence, a multilingual call center providing information about New York, between 1988 and 1990.

We don’t know what, if anything, Burke paid in income taxes to the state of New York.

“The personal information the New York State Tax Department collects from taxpayers, including whether they’ve filed a tax return or not, is protected by the Privacy Provisions of the NYS Tax Law.  Therefore, we’re unable to disclose to you whether a taxpayer filed a tax return, or didn’t,” Cary Ziter, spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance wrote in an email to Wisconsin Reporter.

Can we get that information through an open records request?

Nope, Ziter answered.

While Burke’s name is not found on Wisconsin income tax rolls in 1988, her resume, at least the one she gave to Doyle’s handlers in her less-than-enthusiastic search for a state job, says she still was employed at Intrepid that year. Did she get paid?

Burke’s not answering. Several emails and phone calls to the Democrat’s campaign Thursday went unanswered.

Beyond the tax liability questions, the gap in 1988 does underscore Burke’s ever-changing resume in her campaign to unseat Walker.

“Burke’s ‘typos’ are adding up — already six in just  five months — and it’s difficult to see them as anything but strategic manipulations of the truth,” Joe Fadness, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a column earlier this year looking into Burke’s constantly updated resume.

In that piece, Burke’s campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki corrected himself and the candidate’s resume several times, saying he erred in saying that Burke began working as an executive for Trek in 1991. It was actually 1990. Or was it? Yes, it was 1990.

Burke didn’t pay any Wisconsin income tax in 1990, according to state tax records. The campaign told the Journal Sentinel that Burke had sustained losses in rental property in 1990, which offset her income from Trek.

She paid no state income tax in 1992 and 1993. Burke, who was — at least we are told — Trek’s director of European operations at the time, appears to have received an exemption as a U.S. citizen living abroad for most of the year.

AP file photo

‘SNOWBOARD ‘ABBATICAL’: Burke says she took some time off to find herself in the early-to-mid 1990s. For at least four months of that extended break Burke found herself on a snowboard.

Burke has done a little revising in the “achievements” portion of her resume, too.

The candidate previously had declared that during her tenure building Trek’s European division, European sales soared from $3 million to $60 million. Very impressive, industry insiders say, if true. The problem is, the sales figures cannot be independently verified, and neither Burke nor the folks at Trek, a private company, have to or will provide documentation.

Burke has, however, dialed back the numbers, saying that European sales climbed to $50 million on her watch.

Her account of her 1990’s extended break from employment has often changed, too. Burke has said in mid-1993 she took off to Argentina to do some snow-boarding a for a couple of months at a popular resort in the Andes.

While Burke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that she wanted to “resolve any inconsistencies” about her “snowboard sabbatical,” as her critics have billed it, the details and the timing remain foggy.

But the truth is, Burke confessed to a Doyle administration official in 2005, she was burnt out from her Trek stint.

“This had been a very demanding job and as a result, I decided I needed some time off,” Burke  wrote, as quoted in the newspaper story. “I joined some Spanish friends of mine and moved to Argentina to snowboard for three months.”

Or was that two months?

Yes, it was two months, she told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice.

Definitely two months.

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M.D. Kittle is national First Amendment reporter at Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]