False claims dominated most-clicked items about Scott Walker

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker celebrating his re-election win on Nov. 4, 2014. The victory fueled talk of Walker as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. (AP photo)
Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker celebrating his re-election win on Nov. 4, 2014. The victory fueled talk of Walker as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. (AP photo)

Democrat Mary Burke and her allies came up short against Gov. Scott Walker in the November 2014 election.

In doing so, their underdog effort included many false attacks on the Republican incumbent -- and readers flocked to our Truth-O-Meter items on those statements.

Here is a look at the Top 10 most-clicked items that rated claims about Walker in 2014.

1. Burke and allies tried to widen the gender gap in their favor during the 2014 campaign.

She contended that Walker’s repeal of a 2009 law has left Wisconsin as "just one of five states without an equal pay law protecting women from gender discrimination in their paycheck."

We rated that False.

While Walker reversed an attempt to toughen the Wisconsin law, the state’s protections against gender discrimination in workplace pay date back decades. The governor’s 2012 action left those in place, albeit without tougher penalties for employers.

2. Republicans got in some inaccurate shots as well. Trying to shore up Walker’s record on job creation, the Republican Party of Wisconsin claimed that "25,000 businesses have been created since (Scott) Walker took office."

Mostly False, we found.

There’s an element of truth: That is the number of business "entities" that were created. But portraying these registrations as businesses in the context of job creation is a major stretch because many are just corporate shells, non profit organizations, reconstituted versions of existing businesses and out-of-state firms.

3. A statistical war of words broke out in the governor’s race over incomes in Wisconsin under Walker.

Bloggers claimed Wisconsin ranks last in income growth since Walker became governor. That earned a True. (They were responding to Walker’s tweet that "Wisconsin is #1 in the Midwest for personal income growth over the year." That was also True, because it focused on a more recent time frame.)

4. The liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin now said in a February email that with his proposal to cut income and property taxes, Walker is "increasing the state deficit at a time when borrowing is already at record levels."

Mostly False, we said.

The statement contained an element of truth in that state borrowing was at an all-time high -- but with a nearly $1 billion surplus, it was clear then that the state did not have a budget deficit.

Moreover, an increase in the "structural deficit" -- a projection of a possible imbalance of expenditures and revenues in the future -- has no direct relation to how much the state borrows.

5. Razzing Walker about falling short of his 250,000 jobs pledge, Democratic Party of Wisconsin leader Mike Tate made an interesting claim.

Tate said Welcome to Wisconsin road signs have "always been made in Wisconsin," but Scott Walker "is outsourcing them" to an out-of-state company and "paying more money for them."

That earned a False.

No changes were being made to the large "Wisconsin Welcomes You" signs near the state’s borders, we found. The state did give a sign maintenance contract to a Georgia firm, but businesses -- not state taxpayers -- pay for those small roadway signs and the prices in the contract are not increasing.

6. Burke made a provocatively simple claim in late September: Job creation has gotten worse each year that Scott Walker has been governor.

We rated it False. Annual job growth has been an up-and-down affair.

7. Did Walker cut taxes "for the wealthiest" and raise taxes "on 140,000 Wisconsin families?" That’s what a Burke TV ad claimed.

He did, if you just look at some of the cuts he signed. But he also made cuts that applied across the board. Half True, we said.

8.  A Democratic Party of Wisconsin web video making the rounds on social media showed a grim-faced Walker appearing to bob his head "yes" to a reporter’s question about whether he was at the center of a "criminal scheme" to evade campaign finance laws.

Pants on Fire!

In reality the governor answered an emphatic "no" --  not surprising given he denies any wrongdoing in the John Doe investigation.

The Democratic video, in its editing of the WTMJ clip, left the viewer with the misleading and ridiculous impression that Walker was somehow admitting guilt in the case.

9. Burke claimed in March 2014 that "Wisconsin wages are declining at double the rate of other states."

Another Pants on Fire!

That was the situation in one quarter ending in September 2012, but Wisconsin wages were not declining at all based on much more current data.

Burke’s plan cherry-picked an outdated report that turned out to be an anomaly. More recent data that shows Wisconsin’s average wages not only growing but topping the national mark three quarters in a row.

10. The liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee ran a TV ad saying that "Scott Walker gave Wisconsin job creation money to his cronies: corporate friends who contributed to his campaigns" and got $570 million in job-development incentives.

We rated it False.

The list of companies that won $570 million and gave to Walker is a starting point for trying to spot instances in which a true Walker crony got a sweet deal. But that’s all it is.

Much of that money went to firms whose employees have given to Democrats in the past. Many of the donations were small, and Walker’s jobs agency has a limited role in dealing with firms associated with a big chunk of the $570 million.