A lawsuit’s strange twist
WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been caught using purloined passages in several of his speeches. Now, the aspiring presidential candidate stands accused of filing a lawsuit stolen from its author.
Since December, the libertarian lawmaker, a tea party favorite, was working with former Reagan administration lawyer Bruce Fein to draft a class-action suit seeking to have the National Security Agency’s surveillance of telephone data declared unconstitutional.
But when Paul filed his suit at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Wednesday morning, Fein’s name was replaced with that of Ken Cuccinelli, the failed Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia who until last month was the state’s attorney general.
Cuccinelli has never argued a case in that courthouse, and he isn’t even a member of the D.C. bar (he also filed a motion Wednesday seeking an exception to allow him to argue this case in D.C.).
But he is, like Paul, a tea party darling.
Fein, who has not been paid in full for his legal work by Paul’s political action committee, was furious he was omitted from the filing he wrote.
“I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein,” Mattie Fein, his ex-wife and spokeswoman, told me Wednesday. “Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit,” she said, adding Paul, who “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.”
After the morning news conference announcing the suit, Cuccinelli told me “Bruce Fein will be brought in later.”
But a Jan. 15 draft of the complaint written by Fein has long passages nearly identical to those in the complaint Cuccinelli filed Wednesday. Except for some cuts and minor wording changes, they are clearly the same documents.
For example, Fein’s version said, “When the MATP was disclosed by Edward Snowden, public opinion polls showed widespread opposition to the dragnet collection, storage, retention, and search of telephony metadata collected on every domestic or international phone call made or received by citizens or permanent resident aliens in the United States.”
Cuccinelli’s version said, “Since the MATP was publicly disclosed, public opinion polls showed widespread opposition to the dragnet collection, storage, retention, and search of telephone metadata collected on every domestic or international phone call made or received by citizens or permanent resident aliens in the United States.”
Fein wrote: “On information and belief, Defendants’ Mass Associational Tracking Program since its commencement in May 2006 has not stopped or been instrumental in stopping even one imminent international terrorist attack or has otherwise assisted Defendants in achieving any time-sensitive objective.”
Cuccinelli’s version: “Upon information and belief, since its commencement in May 2006, Defendants’ Mass Associational Tracking Program has not stopped or been instrumental in stopping even one imminent international terrorist attack or otherwise assisted Defendants in achieving any time-sensitive objective.”
The unceremonious jettisoning of a constitutional lawyer in favor of the man best known for his unsuccessful suit to have Obamacare declared unconstitutional suggests Paul’s legal action has more to do with politics than the law.
And there are other clues.
In Fein’s version, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., was listed as a plaintiff along with Paul, but in the final complaint the Democrat was gone and the tea party group FreedomWorks was added in his place. Both suits list as defendants the director of national intelligence, the FBI director and the director of the NSA, but Fein’s version named the defense secretary and the attorney general. Cuccinelli’s version dropped those two but added President Obama as a defendant, an incendiary change.
A Paul adviser said Fein was paid $15,000 and “multiple attorneys” were involved in the complaint. Behind the scenes, Paul’s team reacted angrily to Fein’s accusations.
Doug Stafford, Paul’s top political operative, sent Fein an email Wednesday afternoon saying he expected Fein would be involved in the future, but he criticized Fein for complaining publicly.
“That is crazy and makes no sense if your interest is to work as part of the team. None,” he wrote.
Cuccinelli, meanwhile, complained in a separate email to Fein that “our clients don’t want the lawyers to become the story.”
When Mattie Fein responded in an email to Cuccinelli, calling him “dumb as a box of rocks,” Cuccinelli wrote another email to Bruce Fein saying, “I think this relationship is untenable.”
Paul, for his part, canceled plans to have an afternoon conference call with reporters.
Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post whose work appears Mondays and Fridays. Email him at email@example.com.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Oahu Publishing Inc. or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Oahu Publishing Inc. is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.