Burke, a Democratic candidate for governor has staked her campaign on her experience as a Trek Bicycle executive.
"Every good business person knows, if you want to grow, you need to make investments," Burke said.
Burke has even based the title of her jobs plan on her experience at Trek.
"I came up with the title because I thought back on my experience as an executive at Trek Bicycle, and Trek is a very successful company. It has done very well," Burke said.
But Burke’s campaign doesn’t want to talk about the company’s record on taxes.
She declined FOX6′s requests for an interview on this topic — but she was questioned about corporate taxes during a recent forum at Marquette University.
"Do you feel that taxes are a significant detriment to business and economic development in this state?" Burke was asked at Marquette.
"I will go back to my experience at Trek. Trek has started from a couple of people to nearly 1,000 people, and has been successful, and thinks that Wisconsin is a great place to do business and has never considered leaving it. Do they feel the taxes need to change? I don’t think that’s on their top 25 list of things in making sure Trek Bicycle is a successful company," Burke said.
There may be a reason for that.
Records from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue obtained by FOX6 News show that Trek Bicycle has not paid net income taxes for more than three decades — at least as far back as 1982.
"The division that I ran, we increased sales from $3 million to almost $50 million. This was building up new markets in Europe," Burke said.
The company takes advantage of "Subchapter S" of the tax code, which allows shareholders to file as individuals and pay taxes at lower rates.
"Lots and lots of companies do pay through the individual tax," corporate tax expert Jack Norman said.
Norman says many corporations tend to avoid taxes — or pay the least amount they can legally — something that ultimately shortchanges the public.
"If we’re talking corporate tax avoidance, we’re talking hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and again there are so many other ways companies have tax benefits in Wisconsin — property tax benefits, sales tax benefits, so those also add up," Norman said.
Tax avoidance? Shortchanging the public? Aren't these the exact types of attacks that liberals have thrown at Republicans in recent years?
The clue that indicates this story may have hit home is that neither Trek nor the Mary Burke campaign responded to Fox 6 for a comment on the story.
Some liberals have taken to labeling Mary Burke "the Mitt Romney of the Left." This may be more and more true - and this ought to make Democrats increasingly uncomfortable.
UPDATE: According to Trek, they did provide a response to Fox 6's questions. Here is the relevant portion on taxes.
Q: Why has Trek not paid state net income taxes for decades?
A: Trek has always complied with state and federal income tax laws. Trek is an S corporation for tax purposes whereby its shareholders each pay personal income taxes on their share of Trek’s taxable income.
Q: Why is Trek set up as a Subchapter S corporation?
A: Very simply, pursuant to IRS guidelines, Trek was eligible to elect S corporation status and did so many years ago. There are over a thousand companies in Wisconsin who have elected S corporation status. According to the most recent information regarding S corps on the IRS' website, S corps are the most prevalent type of corporation with 61.9 percent of all corporations filing a Form 1120S in 2003.
Q: Has Trek received government aid, grants or help?
A: In 1995, through the Wisconsin Department of Development, Trek received an $875,000 loan to expand Trek’s manufacturing capacity in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Up to $440,000 of the loan was eligible for forgiveness provided Trek created and maintained a certain number of jobs at the facility through May of 2000. $392,300 of the loan was forgiven. The balance of the loan was repaid in accordance with its terms.
"Participants will represent a diverse cross section of education offerings in Wisconsin — from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling."