Ooh boy, sparks are flying. Rand Paul filed his anticipated class action lawsuit against the NSA over its data mining programs, but Bruce Fein, the absolutely brilliant attorney who served in the Reagan DOJ, is accusing him of stealing his legal work without paying him.
Since December, the libertarian lawmaker, a tea party favorite, had been 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; the two men appeared together as early as last June to denounce the NSA’s activities.
But when Paul filed his suit at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Wednesday morning, Fein’s name had been replaced with that of Ken Cuccinelli, the failed Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia who until last month had been 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 that he had been 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 that Paul, who “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.”…The unceremonious jettisoning of a constitutional lawyer in favor of the man best known for his unsuccessful suit to have Obamacare declared unconstitutional suggests that 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 had named the defense secretary and the attorney general. Cuccinelli’s version dropped those two — but added President Obama as a defendant, an incendiary change.
Paul’s suit is purely political, that’s quite obvious. And if he thinks he has a better chance of winning with Cuccinelli than with Fein, he’s out of his mind. Fein called Cuccinelli “dumb as a box of rocks” and that may be understating the case.