Let’s get it out of the way: 2nd District Congressman Lee Terry got busted for inserting some verbatim copy from a lobbyist into the Congressional Record.
So from there, it becomes a purely political issue. How does he react? What is stated. Who “wins”?
Well, let’s look at Terry’s response:
“I have been a longtime supporter of the biotechnology industry, which is important to Nebraska’s future economic growth. I felt the biotechnology provisions in the health care bill that were not being discussed were important to note.
In the future, our office will make sure our words are clearly our own and not the result of cutting and pasting someone else’s comments.”
(Oh, and that yelping you heard is the staffer who’s butt got kicked down the Rayburn HOB hallway.)
So: “Yes, I believe what was written. Shouldn’t have done it that way. Won’t do it again.”
Decent response to a not-good situation.
OK, so let’s look at the hay his opponents made. What say you Tom White?
A fundraising letter? Well…all right:
“As the fate of health care reform hung in the balance, Lee Terry wasn’t speaking for Nebraska families or small businesses. He was literally speaking for a special interest puppeteer.”
Except, that who cares what Terry put into the Congressional Record (not even a floor speech). The fact is that Terry VOTED against Madame Pelosi’s ObamaCare bill. White said he’d vote FOR the bill!
So White’s political gain outta the whole thing? Well, putting it in the terms that White did, just about nada.
(And the kicker on the whole deal is that it was bi-partisan cutting and pasting! 22 Republicans and 20 Dems.)
So compare this to the Jim Esch “scandal” back in May of 2008.
Jim Esch’s campaign got busted by Channel 7 for cutting and pasting from the Brookings Institute and putting it on his website. Here’s what Esch said at the time:
Esch said his article was actually written by his policy director, Tiffany Siebert.
Esch said, “OK, I actually now know exactly what happened. This is probably my fault. She sent it over to me on e-mail and it has underneath the little asterisk, whatever, I thought it all cut and pasted on there. Clearly it did not.”
“So that was my mistake that the citation didn’t make it, “ said Esch.
Throwing the staffer under the bus. Getting into goofy details. Making it personal.
Compare that response to Terry’s up above.
And then there was Terry’s campaign manager’s line:
“If Mr. Esch was still in law school, he would have been kicked out (for plagiarism).”
And that would have been a great line for Tom White to use back at Terry in this situation.
Except that he didn’t use it. So…
(And note that back then Leavenworth Street also criticized Richard Carter for not getting a better political hit on Esch in that situation. Ah well.)
And just so we cover all of our bases here, kids, you do know that this happens all-the-time, right?
Here’s the reality about Congress: Members of Congress and their staffs are not experts on everything. Lobbyists generally are experts in their field. So sometimes a lobbyist will ask a staffer if they’ll voice support for Issue X, and insert it in the record. Staffer says, yes, this is something my boss is for (or no).
Or maybe a member will want to put something in, so staffer will call up the lobbyist and ask for the details on Issue X so that can put something in.
Now the goofy thing is that in this situation some stupid lobbyist asked over 40 different Members to insert the same thing. And then the staffers, probably working on a Saturday and figuring this wasn’t a floor speech, got lazy.
And in any case, verbatim copying like this shouldn’t happen. The staffers should know better and at least re-write. One would imagine that the staffer’s job would be on the line next time.
(Oh, and the next shocking revelation: Members of Congress don’t sign their own letters. Yes, clean that spit-out coffee off of your screen.)
Now we can’t imagine you have any opinions on all of this…
And try to focus on the political, gang. (Remember, it’s in the blog title…)