BUSTED: House Democrats Caught Plagiarizing United Airlines Lobbyist

There’s a big fight underway in Washington, D.C., over something called “Open Skies” agreements, which are designed to enhance competition in the international air travel space. Gulf airlines (Emirates, Eithad, and Qatar Airways) have been using Open Skies to extend their reach into markets that US airlines, especially United, want to dominate. US airlines don’t like the competition and claim their rivals are getting unfair subsidies, and that the Gulf carriers gaining an edge is bad for American workers. Not surprisingly, pilots unions are right in line with United on this, and not surprisingly, the Gulf carriers are making the point that they buy a ton of US-manufactured planes.


It is against this background that the funny pops up, in which we find House Democrats a) doing the bidding of United, one of the most hated names in corporate America and a major foe of consumer advocacy groups that Democrats typically cuddle up to and b) literally plagiarizing letters drafted by, you guessed it, a United Airlines lobbyist.

A little while back, Politico reported this (our emphasis in bold):

Nearly every member of the Illinois congressional delegation sent a letter last week to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross urging them to crack down on three Gulf airlines for violating “Open Skies” agreements.


If the letter sounds like it could have been written by a United lobbyist, that’s because it was. A draft copy of the letter obtained by POLITICO shows Adam Hepburn, a United lobbyist, as the author. The draft copy is almost identical to the final letter. 

Isaac Sancken, a spokesman for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), who took the lead in assembling support for the letter, confirmed that United wrote the letter and that American and Delta were involved as well.


Now, this week comes the news that other House Democrats (and a few Republicans)—led by Rep. Gene Green— signed onto a second letter that was basically a cut, copy and paste of another letter written by the same United lobbyist. Again, from Politico:

TEXAS DELEGATION SENDS OPEN SKIES LETTER SIMILAR TO ONE WRITTEN BY LOBBYIST: PI reported last month that most of the Illinois congressional delegation had signed onto a letter urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to take action against three Gulf carriers for violating “Open Skies” agreements. […] A draft obtained by PI showed that it had been written by a United lobbyist, which a spokesman for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) confirmed.

– PI also obtained a draft of a second, nearly identical, letter apparently meant to be sent by the Texas delegation. The Word document’s properties show Adam Hepburn, the United lobbyist who wrote the Illinois letter, as the author. On July 28, 29 of the 36 members of Texas’ House delegation sent a letter that was very similar to the one obtained by PI.

– The version written by the United lobbyist and the one sent on July 28 follow a similar structure, use many of the same numbers and contain some identical sentences


Not sure what’s worse… Rep. Green claiming there was no plagiarism and that he and fellow representatives worked hard to write the letter just so, all on their own, or Lipinski basically saying “yep, we copied it, and we’re proud of it.”

But it is a reminder that Democrats are perfectly happy to do the bidding of big business, including very reviled corporations, despite all their protestations to the contrary.


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