Democratic Rep. Ami Bera is being accused of plagiarizing a business group and the Obama administration for a column about trade that ran under the Elk Grove congressman’s byline in The Sacramento Bee on Sunday.
The opinion piece, “Rep. Bera backs giving Obama authority to negotiate trade deal,” caught the attention of the news website BuzzFeed, which on Tuesday posted a story highlighting the similarities between Bera’s wording and other previously published statements.
Bera said he stands by the sentiment of the op-ed in granting the president trade promotion authority, “and my initial draft reflects that,” he said in a statement.
“However, after an internal review of our editing process, it has become clear that widely used and disseminated statements made their way into the final draft, and for that I apologize,” he wrote. “I take full responsibility for this oversight and will be dealing with the responsible staff internally.”
Dan Morain, The Bee’s editorial page editor, said he reached out to Bera’s staff. “It clearly is a work that borrowed way too heavily from other peoples’ work,” Morain said. “I would expect better of people who write op-eds.”
The BuzzFeed story identifies six examples apparently cribbed from talking points distributed by the Business Roundtable and Third Way – “groups that back the president’s trade agenda,” the article states.
Zach Hunter, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, accused the congressman of plagiarism. “It appears Ami Bera is engaging in copy-and-paste public policy, substituting other people’s talking points for analysis,” Hunter said.
The dust-up over the column comes amid persistent criticism of Bera and other moderate Democrats for their position on the proposed agreement. Labor groups have staged daylong protests outside his office, and recently released a private poll they say demonstrates how out of step he is with the views of his suburban Sacramento County constituents.
Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, said the similarities raise questions and show that Bera’s decision to support fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership “wasn’t an independent one made in the best interest of his constituents.”
“It’s really unfortunate that Rep. Bera would rather parrot the talking points of corporate lobbyists and D.C. insiders than listen to folks in his own district who overwhelmingly oppose fast-tracking a critical trade deal that could lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of lost jobs in the Sacramento region,” Smith said.