Senate candidate says ex-staffer copied policies

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Monica Wehby on Wednesday blamed a former staff member for policy positions that matched statements from other Republicans word-for-word.

Wehby's campaign took down the entire issues section of her website a day after BuzzFeed reported that Wehby's health care plan was strikingly similar to poll questions tested by Crossroads GPS, a political group run by Republican operative Karl Rove. Much of Wehby's plan matched the Crossroads poll questions verbatim.

Another BuzzFeed report showed that Wehby's economic proposal matched material from two other Republican politicians, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and a 2012 congressional candidate, Gary DeLong.

Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon and former trustee at the American Medical Association, has made her health care expertise the centerpiece of her campaign against first-term Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley. Merkley's campaign said the revelation that her prescription for fixing the American health care system matched the poll-tested suggestions from Crossroads undermines her case.

"This is more proof that Wehby is in lockstep with national Republicans and their billionaire special interest allies, and will be a rubber stamp for their priorities in the Senate," Merkley's campaign manager, Alex Youn, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Wehby said the policy proposals in the Crossroads presentation are common Republican suggestions for fixing the health care system.

"These aren't proprietary ideas of one particular group," Wehby told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday evening. "This is what we all talk about. In every plan, you'll see the same issues, and that's why these are good plans. I don't need some organization to tell me. I've been studying this Obamacare since before it passed."

Wehby's health care plan, which she repeated Wednesday, proposes expanding use of health savings accounts, allowing consumers to purchase policies from other states and opening access to cheaper catastrophic insurance plans, which only cover very high health care expenses. She also suggested allowing consumers to use pre-tax money to buy insurance and eliminating the tax on medical devices.

Those ideas are all included in the Crossroads presentation as policies that were popular with the public.

"The concepts and ideas are my concepts and ideas that I agree with," Wehby said. "But as far as wording goes, I had no idea that the same wording had been used elsewhere until all this happened. So we took it down."

Wehby sidestepped a question about whether the copied material constituted plagiarism, a word Merkley's campaign is using. She did not name the staffer she blames. Wehby shook up her staff and hired a new campaign manager earlier this summer.

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