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Tea Party Script Written In Washington (VIDEO)

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An extensive review of GOP campaign literature, floor speeches and public statements reveals that Republican candidates and officeholders routinely use GOP talking points verbatim in their speeches and campaign literature, while passing off the language as their own personal views.

Using the plagiarism detection software program iThenticate as well as Google and the Library of Congress, HuffPost found that more than 30 members of the House and Senate eschew originality when it comes to making their case.

A search for Democratic violations turned up far fewer instances. But if Democrats show less of a penchant for blatant copying, it may reflect their traditional unwillingness to follow the party line more than any higher ethical standards. Will Rogers's oft-quoted declaration -- "I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat" -- has worn well over time.

HuffPost's video guru Ben Craw put the parrots in the same cage:

Republican use of identical language isn't limited to press releases or websites; they often use verbatim the words of other members on the House floor.

"As the American people struggle to make ends meet, too many also live with the challenge of affording basic health care for themselves and for their families," Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) announced on the House floor on July 28, 2009. The empathetic statement matches GOP talking points verbatim.

On the same day Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) drew another line from the same set of talking points, telling his fellow lawmakers on the House floor that "the administration's plan for a government takeover of health care will raise taxes, ration care, extend wait times, and let a government commission make decisions that should be made by families and their doctors."

Even when the talking points were not made public, it's not hard to tell when lawmakers were reading from a script. First Tom Price (R-Ga.) and then Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), a few days later, decried "a government takeover of health care that will lead to fewer jobs, higher taxes, and less health coverage."

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) told members on the House floor that "the truth behind the cap-and-tax plan is that it will lead to more taxes, fewer jobs, and more government intrusion in our lives." That mirrors GOP.gov.

The most flagrant violations come from an unlikely corner: A dozen members of the House Tea Party Caucus have made word-for-word use of GOP talking points, presenting them as statements of their own. These self-styled renegade Republicans are, quite literally, reading from a script written in Washington. The source of that script is usually GOP.gov, the website of Republicans in Congress.

One can hear Republican lawmakers read from the script verbatim on the floor of both the House -- Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) -- and the Senate -- Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "Middle-class families and small businesses are making sacrifices when it comes to their own budget, yet Washington continues to spend trillions of taxpayer dollars on bailouts and other government programs," said Pitts, drawing straight from a set of GOP talking points. "The spending in this budget is so massive that independent estimates suggest roughly 250,000 new federal bureaucrats may be needed to spend it all," said Hatch, quoting a different talking point from the same handout.

Only a week after Joe Pitts made his comment about Obama's budget on the House floor, Rep. Mike Coffman told members the exact same thing. "Middle class families and small businesses are making sacrifices when it comes to their own budgets, yet Washington continues to spend trillions of taxpayers' dollars on bailouts and other government programs," Coffman told a C-SPAN audience on March 25, 2009.

The same day Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) used that same talking point on the House floor, but gave it a personal twist: "Families and small businesses across Florida are making sacrifices when it comes to their own budgets, yet Washington continues to spend trillions of dollars on bailouts, takeovers and pet projects." He also posted the statement to his House website.

Foxx, who as the unofficially designated partisan floor-speechifyer might be expected to lift a few lines, takes it to another level. In speech after speech on the House floor, Foxx proceeds to quote the party playbook. It's like watching a newscaster read from a teleprompter -- she scarcely misses a word. But the talking points are not meant to be read as a script: they contain no transitions or context. No matter; Foxx plows right through. Watch the clip below and follow along with the GOP script.

Aside from over a dozen floor speeches with lifted language, HuffPost found dozens of lawmakers quoting the talking points on their House websites. On one level, there's nothing nefarious about parroting central command -- indeed, it's the sort of discipline that allows Republicans to get their message across. But members of Congress purport to represent specific constituents, vowing to fight for Dayton, Ohio, or whatever district they may represent. More than anything, the tight coordination is evidence that the GOP is running a national campaign organized in Washington. Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to localize each race, hoping to survive in a hostile environment by being hated less than their opponent. Neither party's strategy stems from any particular principle, and could shift as the politics shift.

The following excerpt from Tea Party Caucus leader Rep. Michele Bachmann's website is a particularly florid example, however, of the tight connection between Tea Party leaders and GOP leadership:

Bachmann On Health Care

As the American people struggle to make ends meet, too many also live with the challenge of affording basic health care for themselves and their families. Any time a child or a parent goes without the care they need, it is a personal crisis for that family.

That bears a canned resemblance to lines served up by Republican party strategists:

GOP Party Talking Points

As the American people struggle to make ends meet, too many also live with the challenge of affording basic health care for themselves and their families. Any time a child or a parent goes without the care they need, it is a personal crisis for that family.

This sort of parroting may seem harmless. But the copying continues when the dialogue turns to policy prescriptions.

Bachmann (R-Minn.) goes on to cut and paste a full seven paragraphs from the GOP talking points. The only efforts to rework the language were to switch the order of two paragraphs, add a sentence and slip in three extra words.

Other members of the Tea Party Caucus who have taken directly from GOP.gov include Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). [Click on the first name for the text on GOP.gov and on the last name for the candidates "own words."] That's a sizable chunk of the total Tea Party list.

While most cases fly under the public radar, several instances of plagiarism have already cost Republicans in their effort to take back the House. After strongly backing Vaughn Ward to take out vulnerable Democrat Walt Minnick in Idaho, the national Republican party watched in dismay as revealed plagiarism turned what should have been a rout for Ward into a stunning loss of the Republican nomination to the weaker Raul Labrador. The result -- Minnick is expected to hold the seat for the Democrats.

Following Ward's defeat, KTVB in Boise took a closer look and found that he had also plagiarized Pat Meehan, a Republican House candidate in Pennsylvania. But how is it that an Idaho Republican winds up plagiarizing a Pennsylvania Republican, we wondered. Ward's former campaign manager Ryan O'Barto, who resigned after the plagiarism accusations came to light, refused to reveal who "authored" Ward's infamous speech, telling KTVB's Jim Gilchriest: "People who know about politics know what really happened."

In the case of New York Republican candidate Randy Altschuler, who plagiarized press releases from Doug Hoffman, a New York Republican running in another district, there was a clear common source: Both used the same political consultant. Rob Ryan called the plagiarism charge the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard, adding, "I'm a consultant to both campaigns. How can it be plagiarism if I'm a consultant to both campaigns?"

Indeed, calling it plagiarism misses the point. For members of the Tea Party, whose currency lies in their promise to turn Washington on its head, such replaying of talking points from Spin City belies their outsider image.

Take Tea Party darling Lamar Smith, for instance, who writes we "cannot allow politicians and special interests to stand between patients and the care they need. Rather than have health care decisions dictated by the government, the American people deserve the freedom to choose the health care that is best for their families." That's word-for-word what Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) gives as his position statement: "We cannot allow politicians and special interests to stand between patients and the care they need. Rather than have health care decisions dictated by the government, the American people deserve the freedom to choose the health care that is best for their families." Actually, neither is plagiarizing the other -- rather, both are lifting text from GOP.gov.

A letter sent by the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group to the rest of the Members of the Republican Conference contained a talking point from GOP.gov: "a government takeover of health care will raise taxes, ration care, let government bureaucrats make decisions that should be made by families and doctors." Of course that didn't stop almost two dozen House Republicans from signing off on it. Even House Minority Leader John Boehner lifted a line.

Paul Sloca, spokesman for Luetkemeyer, said that using borrowed language isn't a problem, and then accused liberal media of doing the same thing.

"Any time Blaine finds a phrase that reflects what he is hearing from people back home, regardless of where it comes from, he'll use it," Sloca told Huffpost.

Luetkemeyer waxed empathetic on the House floor last year, saying that "as the American people struggle to make ends meet, too many also live with the challenge of affording basic health care for themselves and for their families." It shouldn't bother anyone, apparently, that Reps. Hall and Bachmann write the exact same thing on their websites. Nor should it matter that Rep. Scott Garrett posted the exact same GOP talking point to his Facebook account without attribution.

Some GOP press shops were a bit more bashful. When HuffPost sent Rep. Davis's office a very specific email requesting comment, there was no response, but they did delete the troublesome language from their website. Here is a their site before and after. The copied GOP language that disappeared after the HuffPost inquiry:

"We cannot allow politicians and special interests to stand between patients and the care they need. Rather than have health care decisions dictated by the government, the American people deserve the freedom to choose the health care that is best for their families."

GOP talking points are no longer hosted on GOP.gov. "They're only accessible to House GOP offices," Courtney Kolb, media coordinator for the House Republican Conference, told HuffPost in an email. "It's standard operating procedure on the Hill," she added. "For example, I don't have access to Democrat talking points on their House website."

Some Republicans take pride in being in lockstep, with one GOP aide going so far as to say lawmakers think for themselves at their own peril.

"The fact that House Republicans are consistently on-message... just goes to show that Republicans have a clear and fiscally responsible alternative that is based on sound policy to offer the American people," an aide told the Huffington Post. "If Democrats were able to offer a similarly coordinated message, they might not feel so nauseous every time they look at the political landscape."

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