Monday, September 22nd, 2014

The High Five: Scott Walker's clickability

Gov. Scott Walker spoke to a crowd gathered for the opening ceremony of the Wisconsin State Fair on July 31, 2014.
Gov. Scott Walker spoke to a crowd gathered for the opening ceremony of the Wisconsin State Fair on July 31, 2014.

Statements Gov. Scott Walker made about his Democratic challenger, about the former Democratic governor and gay marriage were among our most-clicked items in July 2014.

A congressional hopeful’s claim about the Common Core school standards also made the High Five.

Here’s a look at what attracted the most page-views:

1. Trek outsourcing

In reference to his leading Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, Walker said "Burke’s company," Trek Bicycle Corp., makes "99 percent of their bikes overseas."

We found that the figure for the Wisconsin-based Burke family company was on target. But Mary Burke left the company a decade ago.

Our rating: Mostly True.   

2. Gay marriage

Walker said "I don’t have any choice" when it came to appealing a federal court decision overturning Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriage.

We set out to test his claim on the Truth-O-Meter, but determined after interviewing legal experts that a definitive rating would be elusive, given the unusual circumstances and lack of clear guidance in the oath or Wisconsin law or court rulings.

Instead, we explored in an article the oath of office the governor took and whether the state has always defended laws that get overturned in court.

3. Abbott Labs deal

Walker earned a Mostly True for saying in an ad that Burke, as Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s Commerce secretary, "spent $12.5 million to buy a vacant lot for a company that said it had no plans to create jobs in Wisconsin" and had to lay off 800 workers.

The reference was to global pharmaceutical maker Abbott Laboratories Inc.

There was a hint of mischief in the ad’s language, in that it could be heard to mean that Burke was so incompetent she gave money to a firm with zero interest in a Wisconsin operation. That idea is off base. But the ad’s claim closely mirrored what Abbott officials said at the time of the award. And federal officials found that even seven years later, no specific use for the land was proposed.

4. Jobs comparison

Walker made another reference to his predecessor in claiming: "We, in this state, saw more job creation in the last three years since I’ve been governor than you saw in the whole eight years of Doyle’s time as governor." That also rated a Mostly True.

Walker was right on the numbers.

But there was an indirect element of blame in his claim. On that score, it’s worth noting Wisconsin consistently trailed the nation in job growth before the Great Recession triggered the second-term losses that dragged down Doyle’s tally. Walker skated past that fact as he chooses a comparison most favorable to himself.

5. Common Core

The one claim in our top five not from Walker was made by state Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Town of Sheboygan, who is running for the congressional seat being vacated by Republican Tom Petri. He said Common Core, a set of standards for English and math unveiled in 2010, is a federal mandate.

We found that although states put themselves in better position for federal education funding by adopting Common Core, the standards were voluntary, not mandatory.

Our rating was False.

A footnote: As is typical each month, our ongoing coverage of Walker’s promise to create 250,000 jobs also was among our most-clicked. Our latest tally put the figure at 100,313.