Copy and Paste

I won’t mention candidate names in this post, because they aren’t really relevant to the story, and if you read Quorum Report you know who I’m talking about anyway.  But I’m referring to four players who are running at present for Texas Legislature primary nominations.

East Texas Incumbent A has a local challenger B.  The incumbent’s team was doing some digging (as they should), and found out that the challenger’s website was using position statements identical (as in, word for word — there is no mistaking that they were shared between campaigns) to those of Candidate C in a Central Texas district.

And then, the website of Candidate D in South Texas also shows… the exact same set of opinions on issues.  Again, word for word, down to folksy punctuation.  The plagiarism is as blatant as this similar case in Boston from last March.

Now, Incumbent A is right to jump on his opponent’s gaffe.  A’s angle is, “This guy can’t even come up with his own opinions on important issues now… how can you trust him in Austin?”  It’s a good point to make.   Still, it will probably fall deaf on the ears of most voters, because it pegs pretty low on the Scandal-O-Meter.

But where I take real umbrage is in how this all probably went down.

Someone tweeted the speculation that the three parroted pages were all built by the same web company — who must have used a template and then forgot to have the client update it.

While a charitable take… in my opinion, that scenario is highly unlikely.  Website design is like bomb building; those who do it regularly have signatures.  Just like the FBI can identify a bomb wacko by the way this or that piece of wire is twisted, an experienced web builder can look at public source code and tell you what’s what, or even identify the company who coded it.  I have looked at the source code for all three of the offenders, and they feature a couple of fundamentally different approaches to web design.  It’s really unlikely that the same company built the three sites.

No… what I suspect is there was one source in Austin for the text of the position statements.  It either came out of the state party office, or (more likely) came from one operative who is saw in a relatively quiet mid-term cycle the opportunity to offer “consultant lite” services… which means shipping the same content off to candidates in three different markets and hoping no one sees.

That is seriously sloppy, and seriously unethical. Especially because I doubt the candidate clients were warned, “Here, we’re using some stuff word for word that another candidate is already claiming as his own opinion. It’ll be fine!”

Campaigns should be ­expected to come up with original statements and language, said [Paul] Watanabe, political science chairman at UMass Boston.

 

“It just strikes me as lazy and lame, and the explanation just is an unsatisfactory one,” Watanabe said.

 

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