Former US attorney Michael J. Sullivan hopes to introduce himself to voters as a “tested and trusted” leader with experience that elevates him above the other two Republicans in the primary field for US Senate.
But Sullivan’s newly launched website borrows heavily from the dormant site of Richard Tisei, the Republican who lost in his bid for a North Shore congressional seat last fall. All seven policy statements on Sullivan’s “Issues” page draw from statements on the “Issues” page for Tisei’s unsuccessful campaign.
Both pages were drafted by Paul Moore, who was Tisei’s campaign manager in the House race and is now Sullivan’s campaign manager for the Senate special election. Moore acknowledged that he cut and pasted the text of the Tisei statements, then tweaked them with some editing and a smattering of new sentences for Sullivan, because of time and resource constraints in a fast-moving race.
Sullivan was the last of the three Republican candidates to formally announce, and his website went live last week.
“The issues in this election are very much the same issues — jobs, economy, and debt — as in 2012, and in this case, the campaign manager was the same person, and campaign managers typically write these things,” said Moore, referring to himself. “It would have been great in a longer election and with more staff to have more time to recreate the wheel, but in this case adding placeholder issues at the start was the goal.”
Even if he was borrowing from himself, Moore should have acknowledged on the website “that this text was the positions taken by Richard Tisei, and Michael Sullivan shares the same point of view,” said Jeffrey M. Berry, a Tufts University political science professor.
In the annals of campaign cribbing, this is less severe than when Vice President Joe Biden lifted a biographical speech from British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock and used it as his own during Biden’s 1987-88 campaign for president, according to Berry and Paul Watanabe, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. It is also less serious than when a Democratic congressional candidate in Western Massachusetts, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., appeared to lift policy statements that were written by staff for separate Democratic campaigns.
Campaigns should be expected to come up with original statements and language, said 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.
The biography on Sullivan’s campaign site is his own, but, Monday afternoon, seven statements on his “Issues” page (under the headings “Debt,” “Iran and Israel,” “Jobs,” “Health Care,” “Seniors,” “Education,” and “Veterans”) all borrowed from statements on Tisei’s site.
Sullivan’s eight-sentence statement on Iran and Israel was the same as Tisei’s, including this line: “After traveling to Israel several years ago, I’ve seen firsthand how truly precarious is her mere existence.”
Moore called it an oversight and said the statement was intended as a “placeholder.” By Monday evening, that had changed, and the statement had become a blend of sentences from Tisei’s page combined with some new language.
That made it more like the other statements, such as Sullivan’s health care stance. Like Tisei’s, it begins, “Our people face health care costs which have been spiraling out of control for many years,” and goes on to echo themes and language from Tisei. But it also includes Sullivan-specific lines about his court experience.
Berry, the Tufts professor, said Moore’s copy-and-paste website creation indicates the challenges the Republican candidates face in this election.
“The real context here is that these Republican candidates are all short on money, their organizations are being created on the fly, and they have little choice but to do as much as they can with as little as they have, and that explains why shortcuts were taken,” Berry said. “Putting up a campaign website is no small task.”