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Meehan staff are said to admit rewriting data

Excised mention of broken pledge

LOWELL -- Members of US Representative Martin Meehan's staff have acknowledged that they deleted unflattering information about a broken campaign promise from an online encyclopedia, according to a published report.

Content on Wikipedia, an encyclopedia that relies on volunteers to post information, was replaced to remove references to Meehan's broken term limit pledge, the Sun of Lowell reported.

Meehan's chief of staff Matt Vogel told the newspaper that he oversaw the removal last July of information, which was replaced with a staff-written biography.

Meehan, a Lowell Democrat, pledged to serve just four terms -- eight years -- but he later broke that campaign promise. He's currently serving his seventh term.

''Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 on a platform of reform," the pre-edited entry said, according to the Sun. ''As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. This breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts."

The new entry read in part: ''Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups."

Vogel said some errors and ''sloppy" writing were replaced. One error included a reference to Meehan attending Harvard.

''Let the outside world edit it," Vogel said. ''It seemed right to start with greater depth than a paragraph with incorrect data from the '80s."

Yesterday, a note was displayed on Meehan's page that said ''as a result of recent vandalism, editing of this page by new or anonymous users is temporarily disabled." It also noted on the page that there's ''admitted Wikipedia vandalism by Meehan's staff."

Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, said removal of facts is wrong.

''You don't delete it," Wales said. ''If they wanted to put in their side of things, that would seem ethically relevant, rather than just omitting it."

A new reference to Meehan's term limit pledge was reinserted in the Wikipedia entry in November, the Sun reported.

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