Bronx council candidate posts a partly plagiarised platform

Top: Screenshot from John Sanchez's platform; Bottom: Screenshot from Latchmi Gopal's platform
Top: Screenshot from John Sanchez's platform; Bottom: Screenshot from Latchmi Gopal's platform
John Sanchez Campaign; Latchmi Gopal Campaign
Top: Screenshot from John Sanchez's platform; Bottom: Screenshot from Latchmi Gopal's platform

Bronx council candidate posts a partly plagiarised platform

Latchmi Gopal even borrowed from one of her opponents.
October 7, 2020

When Latchmi Gopal launched her campaign for New York City Council on Thursday, her website included a long list of policies she would fight for – but much of the language was lifted verbatim from other City Council candidates’ websites, including a rival running in her own district. 

Gopal, a progressive activist who worked as a national canvassing director for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, is running for the 15th City Council District, which covers many of the neighborhoods in the heart of the Bronx around the Bronx Zoo. It’s currently held by Council Member Ritchie Torres, who is expected to vacate his seat at the end of this year to enter Congress, likely leading to a nonpartisan special election sometime in March.

Gopal is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and her platform hit many of the expected notes for a progressive candidate in 2020. “We need to reinvest in structural programs that will support small businesses, workforce development, and career opportunities for young people,” reads her “equitable economic development” platform. But that phrase was copied word-for-word from the economic development platform of John Sanchez, the district manager for Bronx Community Board 6, who is running for the same seat as Gopal. 

Sanchez's platform:

Sanchez_Platform_1.png

Screenshot of Sanchez's campaign platform
Alt Text: 
Screenshot of Sanchez's campaign platform
Image Credit: 
John Sanchez Campaign

Gopal's platform:

Gopal_Platform_1.png

Screenshot of Gopal's platform.
Alt Text: 
Screenshot of Gopal's platform.
Image Credit: 
Latchmi Gopal Campaign

Sanchez's platform:

Sanchez_Platform_2.png

Screenshot of John Sanchez's platform.
Alt Text: 
Screenshot of John Sanchez's platform.
Image Credit: 
John Sanchez Campaign

Gopal's platform:

Gopal_Platform_2.png

Screenshot of Gopal's platform.
Alt Text: 
Screenshot of Gopal's platform.
Image Credit: 
Latchmi Gopal Campaign

Sanchez, who announced his campaign six weeks earlier on Aug. 18, was surprised to see his exact words on Gopal’s site. “I’m flattered my ideas are recognized as being innovative, but disappointed that I wasn’t being given credit for it,” Sanchez told City & State. “I recommend that she and her team do the hard work of engaging with residents instead of taking lazy shortcuts and claiming my work at the work of other candidates as her own.”

City & State found at least a dozen examples of apparent plagiarism on Gopal’s campaign website, borrowed from four candidates – Sanchez; Adolfo Abreu, who is running in the adjacent 14th Council District; Tiffany Cabán, who is running for City Council in Queens; and Samelys López, who ran in the South Bronx congressional primary earlier this year.

Gopal admitted to her campaign stealing from other candidates, but blamed an intern. “While organizing content for our campaign, an overzealous intern was looking to other platforms to see how they addressed these issues,” Gopal said in an emailed statement. “If any content is similar, it is an oversight on framing and incorporation for what are very commonly held policy positions.”

Gopal’s campaign apparently removed some of the plagiarised pieces of the platform after City & State asked about it, but Gopal’s statement undersold the extent of the plagiarism. Gopal’s platform borrowed four bullet points, in order, consisting of 74 total words from Abreu’s Homes Guarantee and Community Control platform, and six bullet points consisting of 101 total words from his Community Health and Wellness platform. She also borrowed Abreu’s “together with my community, I will fight to:” lead-in.

Abreu's platform:

Abreu_Platform_3.png

Screenshot from Abreu's platform.
Alt Text: 
Screenshot from Abreu's platform.
Image Credit: 
Adolfo Abreu Campaign

Gopal's platform:

Gopal_Platform_3.png

Screenshot from Gopal's campaign.
Alt Text: 
Screenshot from Gopal's campaign.
Image Credit: 
Latchmi Gopal Campaign

Abreu's platform:

Abreu_Platform_4.png

Screenshot of Abreu's platform.
Alt Text: 
Screenshot of Abreu's platform.
Image Credit: 
Adolfo Abreu Campaign

Gopal's platform:

Gopal_Platform_4.png

Screenshot from Gopal's platform.
Alt Text: 
Screenshot from Gopal's platform.
Image Credit: 
Latchmi Gopal Campaign

 

Abreu said his supporters had noticed the apparent plagiarism last week, and that he has scheduled a Wednesday phone call to talk about it with Gopal. “It was important to center the fact that our platform was grounded in intentional conversations with community members,” he said. “They do deserve the credit, and I owe it to my people to have a conversation with Latchmi.”

That’s the kind of listening to voters that Gopal touted in the press release announcing her candidacy, writing that “our campaign will work with grassroots groups to build a coalition in The Bronx to advocate for policies informed directly by the community.” It seems that when Gopal said “the community,” she meant other candidates. 

Jeff Coltin
is a senior reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.
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