WASHINGTON — If Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., happened to visit Rep. Lee Terry's official website earlier this year, his policy statement on jobs and the economy sure would have looked familiar.
That's because the Omaha Republican's statement was essentially a reworked version of a speech Ellmers delivered in 2011, with large chunks of identical text that Terry's site presented as his own words.
Ellmers began her 2011 talk — a GOP response to President Barack Obama's weekly address — by citing the “job creators” who had testified before the House Small Business Committee.
“These are leaders and entrepreneurs who take time out and come to Washington to explain how tough things are right now. Their stories are different, but their message is the same: uncertainty, burdensome regulations, and the fear of higher taxes are making it harder to create jobs and stay afloat,” Ellmers said.
Terry started his statement on his website this way:
“Just about everywhere I go in the district I hear from Nebraska's job creators. These are leaders and entrepreneurs who take time to stop me and explain how tough times are right now. Their stories are different, but their message is the same: uncertainty, burdensome regulations, and the fear of higher taxes are making it harder to create jobs and stay afloat.”
Terry's statement continued on, largely tracking the structure and phrasing in Ellmers' address without attributing it to her.
A Democratic political operative who was formerly from Nebraska pointed out the similarity to The World-Herald but would not agree to be identified. Democrats view the eight-term incumbent as vulnerable in next year's election.
At some point this year, the page on Terry's website was trimmed back, eliminating much of the material from the Ellmers speech, though some remained.
The remaining Ellmers wording was removed last week, a few hours after The World-Herald asked Terry's office about it.
It's not clear who was responsible for using the congresswoman's material without attribution. Terry declined to discuss the situation with a World-Herald reporter and instead released a written statement.
“As we work to bring transparency and accountability to President Obama's overreaching programs and failed big government policies such as his health care plan — there will be countless areas of agreement between me and my colleagues,” Terry said in his statement. “It was an unintentional oversight to not attribute those shared visions with my fellow representative. I have taken appropriate steps to rectify the situation.”
Spokesman Larry Farnsworth declined to specify what those steps are or to provide any further details.
Terry's use of the material comes a few years after he and dozens of other House members from both sides of the aisle were caught using speeches written by biotech lobbyists during the health care debate.
At that time, Terry vowed that it wouldn't happen again.
“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,” he said then.
For her part, Ellmers expressed surprise but no concerns when asked about Terry using her material.
“I certainly wasn't aware, but I'm flattered,” Ellmers told The World-Herald. “He's been a great defender of the small-business community.”