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Thursday, May 05, 2005

NM-2: Googler Busts Pearce, Flack Resigns in Disgrace

Posted by Bob Brigham


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The press secretary for Republican Rep. Steve Pearce resigned after admitting he plagiarized material in a newspaper column published under the congressman's name.

Jim Burns said he copied large parts of a column that ran in the El Defensor Chieftain of Socorro last month from the Web site of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington. The column was about energy policy. [...]

El Defensor Editor Dana Bowley said the newspaper went to the foundation's Web site and found the column copied almost word-for-word from a column by a senior policy analyst for the foundation. The paper criticized the column in an editorial.

While true, that doesn't really capture the whole story. El Defensor Chieftain didn't bust Congessman Pearce, a reader did.

With google, anyone can fact-check their congressman. And that is what happened here, from the El Defensor Chieftain:

A letter to the editor in Wednesday's El Defensor Chieftain contends that portions of a recent column we ran from U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce contained passages that were similar to a column by Charli Coon on the Heritage Foundation Web site.

We went to the Web site to check it out and found that our letter writer was being generous. The congressman's column was almost a word-for-word repeat of Coon's column.

Bonus points for the name of the column:

We are a small paper with a limited staff, so we're limited in our ability to cover congressional issues. We run Rep. Pearce's column, which ironically is called "Straight Talk," to allow the congressman to put his message — unfiltered — before the public.

But we expect it to be his message, not unattributed, copyrighted material reprinted without no acknowledgement of permission.

In all fairness, we have no way of knowing if Pearce was aware of the source of the material. And we don't know if this has happened before, but we can't rule it out. As a result, we have informed Rep. Pearce's press secretary by e-mail of our concerns and that we will not run the congressman's columns any longer without assurance that they are original work. As of yet, we have not received a reply.

To some, this may not seem important, but there are significant legal and ethical questions involved. Equally important, however, we believe his constituents expect the congressman to voice his own thoughts, not parrot someone else's.

El Defensor Chieftain is a politically neutral newspaper. Our goal is to present all views, but we have no desire to become an extension of the Heritage Foundation or any group — liberal, conservative or in-between — advancing its political agenda under the guise of a congressman's commentary.


Posted at 09:22 AM in 2006 Elections - House, New Mexico | Technorati