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A fresh take on campaign slogans in Pennsylvania governor’s race

NEWS ITEM: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf acknowledged on Thursday that a portion of his “Fresh Start” campaign platform was plagiarized. Wolf fired the campaign worker responsible for inserting into the platform four uncredited paragraphs lifted directly from energy efficiency reports written by Johnson Controls Inc. employees.

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“Come on in, Joe. Close the door. Have you seen the news reports today on the plagiarized platform piece? Talk about embarrassing.”

“As your campaign manager, Tom, I have to tell you not to sweat this. It’s not as though you were caught wearing a white hood during a cattle roundup at Cliven Bundy’s ranch.”

“We just can’t have any more bombshells going off so close to the primary, Joe. That’s why I asked you to investigate whether there’s any other unoriginal aspect of the campaign we could be accused of stealing.”

“Yes, Tom, I did look into it. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

“Whew. That’s good.”

“There’s only one potential trouble spot that I could find, and it’s a relatively minor one.”

“Oh? How minor?”

“Well, it involves the … uh… campaign slogan.”

“The slogan? Joe, the slogan isn’t a minor part of a political campaign. It appears on all the buttons, bumper sticker, banners and yard signs!”

“Well yes, that’s true. But other than that, the slogan really isn’t significant.”

“So Joe, you’re telling me ‘A Fresh Start for Pennsylvania” has been used before?”

“Most of it, yes.”

“By who? Governor Corbett better not have used it four years ago, or some heads are going to roll around here.”

“No, Tom, it wasn’t Governor Corbett. It was Peter Russo.”

“Never heard of him. Who is Peter Russo?”

“He was a fictitious Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the first season of the critically acclaimed Netflix TV series ‘House of Cards.’ ”

“Really? Are you (kidding) me?”

“Uh — unfortunately, no. “

“And what was this fictitious Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s campaign slogan?”

“Uh…’A Fresh Start.’”

“‘A Fresh Start.’ I see.”

“It’s not as bad as you think, Tom. Although the undeniable thematic similarities might prompt people to think we appropriated the slogan, our wording is slightly different.”

“No it isn’t. Our wording is slightly longer.”

“That counts as different, doesn’t it?”

“So we paid the consultants some incredible sum to brainstorm and strategize and do focus-group testing to bring us the ideal campaign slogan — and they ended up saying, ‘Oh, the heck with doing all that work. Wolf can just use the House of Cards’ slogan.’ ”

“That’s not necessarily true. Might just be a coincidence.”

“This is a disaster, Joe.”

“Tom, don’t worry. This hardly is a campaign killer.”

“Have you been paying attention to what we’ve been promising people for months? I can see the headline now.”

“What headline?”

“ ‘Wolf’s ‘Fresh Start’ rife with stale parts.’ ”

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or [email protected].


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