WASHINGTON — A Sunday op-ed under the byline of Democratic Rep. Ami Bera backing President Obama's pitch for fast-track trade authority — an issue that has split progressives from the White House — appears to crib from pro-trade talking points posted online by business groups and conservative Democrats.
The op-ed, headlined "Rep. Bera backs giving Obama authority to negotiate trade deal," ran in Sunday's Sacramento Bee. The public endorsement of Obama's pitch for fast-track authority is rare among Democrats these days, and opponents of the White House trade agenda among the president's base said the language similarities in Bera's op-ed and talking points from the Business Roundtable and moderate Democratic Third Way group — groups that back the president's trade agenda — prove their point that the deals are bad for the activist left.
"I don't know if this cut-and-paste job rises to the level of plagiarism," said Jason Stanford, a top official at the Coalition To Stop Fast Track, a labor-backed effort to pressure Democrats to vote against the White House on trade, "but Congressman Bera sure comes across like someone whose spending more time listening to corporate lobbyists than speaking for the thousands of his constituents who have asked him not to vote for fast track."
Bera's staff said the op-ed resulted from meetings with people on all sides of the trade debate.
"He's met with many different people, with many different opinions about this very important issue. He of course has spoken with the president and the White House. He's also spoken with local and national representatives from labor unions, think tanks and advocacy groups like Public Citizen and Third Way, environmental organizations, and many other constituents, policy experts, and stakeholders from all sides of this issue about how TPA will impact Sacramento County and this country," Alison Teixeira, spokesperson for Bera, told BuzzFeed News in an email. "Rep. Bera made his decision to support giving the president the authority to negotiate a trade deal with strict requirements from Congress after many hours of research and deliberation, and based on what he believes will grow our economy, create good-paying American jobs, and protect workers and the environment. His piece encapsulates his views on the issue."
One sentence of the op-ed appears to borrow form Business Roundtable "U.S. Trade & Investment Initiatives" talking points:
"With 95 percent of the world's population and 80 percent of global purchasing power outside of the United States, America's global competitiveness will increasingly depend on expanding U.S. trade and investment opportunities."
"With more than 95 percent of the world's population outside the United States, economic growth and jobs for the region and America will increasingly depend on expanding U.S. trade and investment opportunities in the global marketplace."
The op-ed also appears to borrow a number of sentences from a one-pager produced by Third Way, the centrist Democratic group:
"This TPA is the strongest deal yet on labor and the environment."
"The Trade Promotion Authority also requires the strongest deal yet on labor and the environment."
"To add teeth, these labor and environmental standards are fully enforceable and allow for trade sanctions for violators."
"And unlike previous versions, this Trade Promotion Authority adds teeth to the standards, making them fully enforceable through trade sanctions for violators."
"High standards like this are critical for the region. If the U.S. fails to set the rules, China will."
"High standards like this are critical because if the U.S. fails to set the rules, China will."
"This TPA bulks up Congressional oversight and power. TPA 2015 ensures the highest level of consultations and collaboration with the legislative branch — requiring all Members of Congress to be regularly consulted by USTR and provided with access to the negotiating text."
"The Trade Promotion Authority also requires significant congressional oversight and unprecedented levels of public transparency. In fact, it requires all members of Congress to be regularly consulted and given access to negotiating text and even allows Congress to withdraw the Trade Promotion Authority if the deal does not meet the established standards."
Finally, the op-ed also includes phrasing from the White House's "2015 Economic Report Of The President".
"TPP will constitute the largest expansion of enforceable labor rights in history, more than quadrupling the number of people around the world covered by enforceable labor standards."
"That would mean the largest expansion of enforceable labor rights ever, more than quadrupling the number of people protected by enforceable labor provisions."