Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rand Paul's Lawsuit Against the NSA Has Evolved Into a Disaster

All lawsuits are launched with the idea they are great ideas, but not all lawsuits, in retrospect, end up being such great ideas. Such is the case with Rand Paul's lawsuit against the NSA.

Rather than the story being about the lawsuit, it has evolved into the story of whether Rand plagiarized the lawsuit and screwed a lawyer who drafted most of the suit.

David Weigel is out in Slate with an article recounting the disaster in a story titled, Who Sues for Rand Paul?:
Inside the strange case of the senator's supposedly plagiarized lawsuit against the NSA.

Weigel informs:
The story of how Bruce Fein stopped being the de facto solicitor of the libertarian movement is a bit of a sideshow. Paul’s lawsuit was an international story; Fein’s absence, which blew up into a fight about whether the lawsuit was stolen intellectual property, was a he-said-she-said that played out across a few offices in Washington. On Wednesday, Fein’s ex-wife Mattie was answering emails and media calls on his behalf. On Thursday she left this role after what she called “a post-marital fight.”

It’s the latest and strangest example of Paul’s challenge: managing the Republicans who want to share his brand without alienating the people who made his (and his father’s) movement. Fein was definitely one of the founding partners, with decades of experience arguing that unpopular or unfair-seeming decisions were deeply rooted in the Constitution.

Fein became a fixture at paleoconservative events—the smartest guy in the room, the one who had a quote from John Adams for any occasion. When Ron Paul announced his final presidential bid, Fein quickly endorsed him. When Sen. Rand Paul was criticizing the use of force in Libya, Fein was drafting articles of impeachment. “If that level of oppression justifies war unilaterally,” he told Alex Jones, “we’ve got about 80 countries standing right behind Libya.”

By the time Fein joined Sen. Paul for the NSA announcement, 2013 was becoming his milestone year. Lon Snowden, the father of the whistleblower, called Sen. Paul’s office to talk about the growing circus. Snowden was encouraged to work with Fein. The attorney was suddenly, expertly shepherding his clients through the green rooms of This Week and Anderson Cooper 360.

It didn’t last. Fein represented Lon Snowden, but many press requests were routed through Mattie Fein. She insisted that Edward Snowden’s allies, chiefly Glenn Greenwald, were exploiting him. The younger Snowden encouraged his father to dump the Feins, while issuing a statement to make clear that “neither my father, his lawyer Bruce Fein, nor his wife Mattie Fein represent me in any way.” One month later, in late September, Lon Snowden terminated his relationship with his attorney. Fein didn’t take it well, but he didn’t blame his ex-wife.

“The belated unity of my former client, Ben Wizner, and Glen [sic ]Greenwald seems a desperate effort to bolster their relevance to Ed Snowden,” Fein told reporter Michael Calderone. “I regularly remind myself that Socrates struck the mightiest blow for freedom of inquiry in the history of mankind [by] taking the hemlock in Athens according to its laws, not fleeing elsewhere.”

And Fein had a client who wasn’t fleeing. He had Rand Paul. In the winter of 2013, Fein worked with other attorneys to craft Paul’s lawsuit against the NSA. According to Mattie Fein, who provided an invoice, her ex-husband worked for 201.99 hours on the NSA brief. He charged only two-thirds of his normal $700-per-hour rate for work like reviewing the 1978 FISA amendments (six hours), meeting with NSA expert James Bamford (10 hours), and reviewing committee hearings. The bill added up to nearly $47,000.

By Jan. 15, as first reported by Dana Milbank, Fein had produced a draft that ended up looking like the suit filed by Paul and Cuccinelli. It had been two weeks since Cuccinelli was announced as the attorney on the finished suit. Mattie Fein insists that her husband was dumbstruck. “He wasn’t even told that they were filing it on Wednesday.”

Bruce Fein stayed silent. Mattie Fein did not. On Wednesday she carried out guerilla warfare against Cuccinelli, supplying reporters with her evidence that Cuccinelli—not even licensed to practice in D.C.—was peddling someone else’s lawsuit, and suggesting questions that could stump him. The Paul-Cuccinelli-FreedomWorks press conference ended before noon, but by 2 p.m. Cuccinelli was emailing Bruce Fein to ask what had happened.

“Rather pointed questions from media folks have started to arise specifically about you,” Cuccinelli wrote. “Has Mattie perhaps had conversations with her contacts that have inspired such questions[?]”

Mattie intercepted the email and told Cuccinelli to speak to her directly. “What is your explanation for not being able to answer the numerous FISA suits?” she wrote[...]

Paul had planned to hold a conference call about the lawsuit. It was canceled. Early on Wednesday evening, Milbank ran with the story that Paul had been accused of plagiarizing his lawsuit and had never paid Bruce Fein.
WaPo's Dana Milbank has now published a series of email exchanges from  Bruce Fein, Mattie Fein, Cuccinelli and key Rand Paul staffer Doug Stafford. Among the emails, there is one from Mattie where she identifies Stafford as "that snake Stafford." In other email, she writes Cuccinelli directly: "What is your explanation for not being able to answer the numerous FISA suits… I planted that because I know you are dumb as a box of rocks….make this right ken. You have no legal credibility…."

In one email, Cuccinelli  that the fear Rand Paul and Team have is that "As much as possible, our clients dont [sic] want the lawyers to become the story." But, indeed that is exactly what is occurring, largely because of the bizarre Rand Paul team cutting out of Bruce Fein from the lawsuit he wrote.

This is, of course, all material for a great slapstick movie. I could see a movie version of the developing events blowing away even The Birdcage at the box office.


  1. The Feins don't exactly have a glowing reputation as they are both neocon mobbed up, Mattie in particular. Who on Ron Paul's staff, if not Ron Paul, suggested getting into bed with them in the first place, should be looked at, but that at least might explain how they got invited into the Rand camp.

    1. It's probably Ron Paul himself, who just can't seem to stop himself from getting into bed with the wrong people. So this wouldn't surprise me either.
      It also proves to me that it really was a good thing he never won the election. The damage to libertarianism could have been irreparable.

    2. Good point Tony. I think Ron Paul is WAY too nice. That's the problem. He doesn't know how to tell evil bastards to fuck off. Plus he's FAR too naive and trusting.

    3. "Good point Tony. I think Ron Paul is WAY too nice. That's the problem. He doesn't know how to tell evil bastards to fuck off. Plus he's FAR too naive and trusting."

      Pretty much sums up a lot of white people in general.

  2. Fein is a POS. The one fault I have with Ron Paul is that he somehow managed to surround himself with some real sleaze bags. Poor judgment? Naivete? Too bad.

  3. Sibel Edmonds, Justin Sane, and Local Ale. Is there more than one person there?

  4. wonder if Paul was tasked with buggering the NSA story up. And turning it into just a another DC flap. If so he succeeded admirably