Over the past several months, Tea Party groups have actively searched for a conservative Republican to mount a primary challenge against incumbent U.S. senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Many thought they had found their man in state representative Joe Carr, whose platform reads like a Tea Partier’s letter to Santa Claus.
As it turns out, that may be because Carr stole it directly from the Tea Party.
Responding to a questionnaire by the Coalition for a Constitutional Senate, which includes more than 60 Tennessee Tea Party and far-right groups and a political action committee known as Beat Lamar, Carr copied lengthy phrases and complete sentences from four articles on The Heritage Foundation’s website. Coalition member James Gann highlighted the similarities in an email obtained by The Tennessean and other media outlets.
In response, Carr did not deny that he had lifted answers from Heritage, but did deny that it constituted plagiarism.
“When we were crafting our answers, I went to various sources — not just Heritage, but a number of resources — to do the research,” he told The Tennessean. “I certainly would never imply that my thoughts or ideas or views are exclusively my own, and I certainly didn’t represent them in the questionnaire that way.”
“I don’t make any apologies for my answer,” he added. “I think the only thing I regret is that I didn’t have the foresight to say, ‘You know, here’s a list of sources that I got to illustrate my point of view.’ But it certainly wasn’t intentional.”
While Carr’s direct copying from The Heritage Foundation is certainly a step over the line, he’d hardly be the first politician to crib language from an outside actor (for another example, look no further than North Carolina’s ALEC-themed dash to the right). Carr’s platform does offer a good view of the Heritage Foundation’s intellectual decline. Had Carr plagiarized from The Heritage Foundation a few decades ago, he could have wound up supporting a platform of detailed policies (including, perhaps, an individual mandate for health insurance). Now, under the leadership of former Senator Jim DeMint, Heritage tends to favor Tea Party-flavored plans like shutting down the government to defund Obamacare (a substantively empty charade that Carr has used to attack Senator Alexander in recent weeks).
This is not the first incident to suggest that Carr could use an editor; the announcement of his campaign in late August featured a graphic that misspelled the word “Senate.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carr’s candidacy is struggling to gain traction against Alexander. Although a mid-August Triton Polling survey found that a generic “credible conservative candidate” leads Alexander 50 to 45 percent — suggesting that Alexander would definitely be vulnerable to a strong challenge — North Star Opinion Research finds that Carr may not be the right challenger. Their August 28 poll found that Alexander is ahead of Carr by a whopping 64 to 22 percent margin.
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