Pubdate: Mon, 03 Nov 2014
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2014 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Author: Daniel Bice
Note: Daniel Bice is a Watchdog columnist covering Wisconsin 
government and politics. His "No Quarter" column has won a National 
Headliner Award for best local interest column.
Page: 12A


In a governor's race full of twists and turns, it has now come to this:

A national conservative group - a Super PAC supported by the Koch 
brothers in the past - is lighting up social media with nine 
light-hearted ads promoting the Libertarian candidate for governor, 
Robert Burke, because he wants to legalize marijuana.

The videos almost immediately stoked concerns within Democratic 
gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke's camp that this was a cynical 
Republican ploy meant to peel off young voters or confuse people. 
Five of the nine marijuana ads attack Mary Burke, who is opposing GOP 
Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday.

"They know that with the last two polls of the election showing a 
dead heat, they are pulling out all the dirty tricks to try and save 
Walker from defeat," said Joe Zepecki, spokesman for Mary Burke.

Robert Burke, the Libertarian candidate, agreed with his namesake on the ads.

He said it is clear that the online videos are aimed at drawing 
"young liberal voters from Mary Burke to vote for Robert Burke." He 
continued, "While I endorse the full legalization of cannabis, I do 
not endorse in any way the message of this ad."

But Walker's folks said Mary Burke's staff must be smoking something 
because, they noted, there is no evidence linking them to the ads. 
The first-term governor takes no hits in the marijuana ads.

"Hopefully, once the pizza and Doritos arrive, the Burke campaign 
will quiet down," said Joe Fadness, executive director of the 
Republican Party and a frequent spokesman for Walker.

Mary Burke supports medical marijuana while Walker opposes it. Both 
oppose full legalization.

The American Future Fund began running nine spots -- some 15 seconds 
and the others 30 -- on Twitter and other social media late last 
week. The ads were put together by Craft DC, a Washington, D.C.-based 
PR firm headed by a former GOP operative.

In the first, a stoner type wonders aloud who would make the "Mount 
Rushmore of Weed." Musicians Snoop Dogg, Bob Marley and Willie Nelson 
snag the first trio of spots, and Robert Burke will land the final 
one "after he legalizes marijuana in Wisconsin."

"Vote Robert Burke for governor," the stoner says. "Get Burke, get blazed."

Another one asks, "What's Mary Burke's problem with Mary Jane?" It 
concludes, "Light it up, take a puff and vote for Robert Burke. Don't 
vote for the wrong Burke."

Yet one more refers to the Democratic nominee as "Mary the millionaire."

The American Future Fund, which is based in Des Moines, Iowa, is 
involved in a number of races all around the country, mainly on 
behalf of Republicans. The group has paid for print ads in Politico 
on behalf of Walker in the past. The tax-exempt group has often acted 
as a pass-through for money from conservatives.

It has received national attention this year for running online ads 
advocating for Sean Haugh, a Libertarian candidate in North Carolina, 
because of his support for legalizing marijuana. The theme: "Get 
Haugh, get high."

Officials with the American Future Fund did not return calls last week.

In the past, the group has been part of the network of political 
groups receiving funding from billionaire brothers Charles and David 
Koch, who once ran as the vice presidential nominee for the 
Libertarian Party, through their financial arm Freedom Partners.

"Freedom Partners has not given American Future Fund any grants in 
the last two years and has no involvement with their current campaign 
in North Carolina," a spokesman told the Washington Post.

Reached on Friday, Robert Burke had no idea that the "get blazed" ads 
were running for him.

"This is outstanding," he said. "This is completely new to me."

If nothing else, he said the videos will help elevate the 
legalization issue. He said any time that he brings up the issue in 
Wisconsin, there is a lot of interest, even though the topic has been 
ignored by Democrats and Republicans.

Burke has vowed to pardon all non-violent, small possession marijuana 
convictions if elected.

"Even if we don't win, you need to pay attention to this issue," he 
said bluntly. He later issued a press release distancing himself from the ads.

It's left to the campaigns of the two contenders to debate the impact 
of the videos.

"I don't think it'll have much impact at all," said Zepecki of Mary 
Burke's campaign. "Folks know whats at stake and how important it is 
to vote for a new direction with Mary. This is just a silly 
distraction brought to you by those desperate to enshrine Walker on 
the Mount Rushmore of Koch Brother water carriers."

Alleigh Marre, an aide to Walker's campaign, suggested it was the 
Mary Burke campaign that was being silly.

"Burke's campaign has gone from the ridiculous to the absurd," Marre said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom