Congressman’s Column Plagiarized Material, So His Spokesman Quits

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By: The Associated Press

The press secretary for Republican Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico has resigned after admitting he plagiarized material in a newspaper column published under the congressman’s name.

Jim Burns said he copied large parts of a column that ran in the El Defensor Chieftain of Socorro, N.M., (a twice-weekly newspaper) last month from the Web site of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington. The column was about energy policy.

“What I did was wrong,” Burns said Wednesday. “It was a colossal error in judgment. Rather than stay on and embarrass the congressman, I am leaving.”

Burns, a former reporter for United Press International, also said there may have been other instances of plagiarism in speeches and columns he has written on Pearce’s behalf since taking the job in January.

El Defensor Editor Dana Bowley said the newspaper went to the foundation’s Web site and found the column copied almost word-for-word from a column by a senior policy analyst for the foundation. The paper criticized the column in an editorial.

It is common for congressional staffers to draft speeches and guest columns for their bosses.

Pearce declined to comment Wednesday, but chief of staff Greg Hill said the congressman was unaware of the plagiarism.

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