By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker sent a letter on Thursday to his Democratic opponent, Tony Evers, taking him to task over seven instances of plagiarism in budget requests that Evers submitted as the head of Wisconsin’s education department.
Walker has been trying to draw attention to this plagiarism in the final weeks of his campaign, which polls show is in a dead heat with Evers’. Walker’s letter came the same day that one of Walker’s former Cabinet secretaries, who has been outspoken against Walker for months, wrote an op-ed in The Atlantic blasting the Republican incumbent.
Walker’s campaign found seven sections of budget requests submitted by the state Department of Public Instruction, which Evers runs, contained material that was copied from other sources without credit. Four were from the most recent budget, and three others came from budgets dating to 2012.
Evers has said the source of the material in question should have been cited in the budgets and the staff employees who were responsible for the omissions would be admonished and required to undergo training. He downplayed the issue in a debate with Walker last week. Evers tried to turn the tables on Walker by arguing the governor had in fact plagiarized Evers’ own budget request by passing the bulk of it and then claiming it as his own.
In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal’s editorial board on Wednesday, Evers said the staff employees involved know they made a mistake.
“If a student didn’t have the proper citations, I’d say to that student, ‘Hey, you forgot the citations. Put ’em in here,'” Evers told the newspaper. “I wouldn’t expel them.”
In his letter to Evers, Walker noted that the education department’s website declares that plagiarism is “illegal.” Although plagiarism isn’t a crime, it can be an infringement of copyright laws
“Since your own agency considers plagiarism ‘illegal,’ I ask that you issue a public statement explaining to the students of this state why, at the very least, you shouldn’t be held to the same standard that they are in the classroom,” Walker wrote.
Other than calling on Evers to write such a letter, Walker didn’t make clear what else he expects Evers to do. Walker’s campaign did not immediately respond to a question on that point. Evers’ campaign spokesman, Sam Lau, issued a statement saying Walker was “flailing so he can distract from the fact he is suing to gut protections for 2.4 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions.”
Evers has promised, on his first day in office, to pull Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. He’s also repeatedly called on Walker to drop the lawsuit.
Earlier on Thursday, Walker had equated the instances of plagiarism found in Evers’ budget requests with former Vice President Joe Biden’s plagiarizing a speech, during his presidential run in 1988, from a British politician. Biden will campaign with Evers on Tuesday in Wisconsin.