There are quite a few questions surrounding Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) new lawsuit against the NSA, but one of the more politically salient concerns – did he steal the suit from its original author? – is a little murky.
To briefly recap, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reported that Paul, already caught plagiarizing late last year, allegedly took the text of his litigation from attorney Bruce Fein, removing his name from the document and bringing in Ken Cuccinelli, the failed Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, to replace him. Milbank’s report was based in large part on complaints from Fein’s longtime spokesperson.
But by mid-morning yesterday, Paul’s political operation seemed to present a persuasive defense: Fein had not only been paid for his work, the attorney even said in an email that the concerns raised by his spokesperson “did not represent” his views.
And with that, much of the political world simply moved on, assuming Milbank’s report was wrong and the allegations were baseless.
But something didn’t quite smell right. If there was an easy explanation, why didn’t Paul’s super PAC give it to Milbank from the outset? Why would Fein’s spokesperson say things Fein disagrees with? If Fein really did write the lawsuit, why did Paul and his team feel the need to take his name off it?
Many quickly assumed Paul had been exonerated, but the story still seemed … odd.
Last night, Milbank produced some additional materials that cast the story in a different light.
Given the details, the pushback that may have seemed persuasive yesterday morning is less clear now.
After furious complaints from Paul advisers, Fein issued a statement Thursday saying: “Mattie Lolavar was not speaking for me. Her quotes were her own and did not represent my views. I was working on a legal team, and have been paid for my work.”
However, Mattie Fein has routinely been identified as Bruce Fein’s spokeswoman in media reports, and e-mails I sent to Bruce Fein this week were answered by Mattie Fein, who again identified herself as his spokeswoman and who relayed information between Bruce Fein and me. The e-mails, which I was authorized to publish, also show that Bruce Fein was angry about the way he had been treated by Paul and Cuccinelli and was seeking payment from Paul’s political action committee as late as Wednesday.
In a telephone conversation Thursday evening, Cuccinelli, joined by Bruce Fein, repeated that Mattie Fein was “not authorized” to speak for Bruce Fein, and said “Mattie sent emails in his name from his account.” But Bruce Fein confirmed on the call that he had, in fact, written one of the two emails forwarded to me from his account, in which he complained about the way he was treated by the Paul team and requested payment.
Was Fein compensated for his work? Not in full – the attorney’s legal bill to Paul’s super PAC was $137,794. As of yesterday, Fein had been paid $15,000 of that total.
Was Fein’s lawsuit taken from him? The attorney certainly seemed to think so – Milbank produced an email in which he (not his spokesperson) told Paul’s top political advisor just this week, “My marginalization was thoroughly unfair.” He added, “My outstanding invoice for work indispensable to the lawsuit should be paid.”
The entirety of the email chain is online and available for public scrutiny – some of the messages get quite colorful – and taken together, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that Rand Paul’s operation apparently took Fein’s work, used it, failed to give him credit, and failed to fully compensate him for his time and effort.