Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown blamed his staff Thursday for passages about his upbringing on his official Senate website that were lifted word for word from a 2002 speech by former senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole.
Brown's spokesman, John Donnelly, said excerpts of the speech were on Dole's website, which aides used as a template for his, and that the passages were transferred inadvertently without being rewritten.
The Democratic group American Bridge, which discovered the matching words, accused the Massachusetts Republican of plagiarism.
"This is just further proof that Scott Brown is not who the people of Massachusetts think he is," Rodell Mollineau, president of American Bridge, said in a written statement. "The fact that he has plagiarized a personal values statement in a message to students really raises questions about just how genuine Scott Brown is."
Donnelly denied any plagiarism, saying it was an innocent mistake by staffers.
"Senator Dole's website served as one of the models for Senator Brown's website when he first took office ... It was a staff level oversight which we regret and has been corrected," Donnelly said in a statement.
The passages were about the values that parents instill in their children.
"I was raised to believe that there are no limits to individual achievement and no excuses to justify indifference," was the message on Brown's website that has since been removed. "From an early age, I was taught that success is measured not in material accumulations, but in service to others. I was encouraged to join causes larger than myself, to pursue positive change through a sense of mission, and to stand up for what I believe."
Passages from Dole's speech were included in a message to students on her website.
"I am Mary and John Hanford's daughter, raised to believe that there are no limits to individual achievement and no excuses to justify indifference," was the message on Dole's website. "From an early age, I was taught that success is measured, not in material accumulations, but in service to others. I was encouraged to join causes larger than myself, to pursue positive change through a sense of mission, and to stand up for what I believe."
In his biography, "Against All Odds: A Life From Hardship to Hope," Brown described a difficult childhood, including moving 17 times by the time he turned age 18, an absent father and sexual abuse by a camp counselor and a beating by a stepfather.
"I look back on my life now, though, and I can honestly say that there isn't one thing I would change: not the arrest, not the violence, not the hunger, not the beatings and brute struggles," Brown wrote, adding that such experiences made him what he is today.
Brian Nick, a spokesman for the former North Carolina senator, said Dole viewed the episode as "an innocent mistake" by staff. Nick said that a lot of Senate offices use generic language from time to time.
Brown, a Republican, is running for re-election in 2012 for the seat long held by the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Recent polls show consumer advocate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to take on Brown. Those polls also show Brown and Warren running roughly even in the blue state.