Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby, already trailing in the polls against Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, is now dealing with a fresh plagiarism scandal involving her health care and economic plans. The campaign has pulled down portions of its website after news reports revealed instances of language pulled from other sources.
This week, Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski noticed that the health care plan on Wehby's campaign site was largely identical to a survey conducted by Karl Rove's political group Crossroads GPS. That would have been embarassing for any candidate, but Wehby has been running on her health care expertise based on her career as a successful pediatric neurosurgeon. It didn't help that Wehby's campaign offered up a flip response to the initial allegation.
“The suggestion that a pediatric neurosurgeon needs to copy a health care plan from American Crossroads is absurd,” a Wehby spokeswoman told Buzzfeed. “Dr. Wehby is too busy performing brain surgery on sick children to respond, sorry.”
They couldn't ignore it for long, however, especially after Buzzfeed discovered the economic plan posted on Wehby's site also lifted language from several other Republican sources and the story spread across local Oregon outlets. On Wednesday, the campaign removed portions of its website and blamed a former staffer for the issues.
"These website pages were authored by staff that are no longer employed by the campaign and were immediately removed once brought to our attention," Wehby spokesman Dean Petrone told the Statesman Journal.
The Merkley campaign was quick to pounce on the episode.
"The Wehby campaign wants Oregonians to believe Wehby hadn't read her own health care and economic plans until today," Merkley campaign manager Alex Youn told the newspaper in a statement. "That's ridiculous ... This is her policy platform, and it's the reason she is running."
Wehby was considered one of the top Republican Senate recruits at the start of her campaign thanks to an appealing biography and a handful of moderate positions (she's a rare pro-choice GOP candidate) that could play well in blue-leaning Oregon. But her campaign never caught fire, beset early on by revelations that Wehby had been accused of harassment by her ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend.
Recently, Freedom Partners, a Koch-backed political group that has backed Wehby, canceled planned October ads, an indication that big money donors may be giving up on the race. While polling is relatively scarce in the race, surveys have consistently given Merkely a double-digit lead for months.