Jewish World Review Feb 20, 2014 / 20 Adar I, 5774
Fighting over Sen. Rand Paul's NSA lawsuit continues
By Dana Milbank
And that’s just among the plaintiffs.
The federal court hasn’t yet acted on the NSA lawsuit filed last week by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, but lawyers who should be on the same side in the case have been squabbling outside the courtroom. First, one of Paul’s lawyers complained that he had been pushed aside and hadn’t been paid in full for his work. No sooner had that controversy been faced when a new one emerged from a plaintiff in a similar suit in the same court.
“They think they can take what others have done and claim credit themselves,” protested the plaintiff, Larry Klayman, who filed suit in June and who won a preliminary injunction against the NSA in December.
Klayman, a conservative gadfly who has been suing public officials for decades, sent Cuccinelli a letter Tuesday asking him to make “corrections to the public record” because of “misinformation” Paul’s team had disseminated about Klayman’s case against the NSA.
Klayman told Cuccinelli that he “created the mistaken impression that your case is the only class action and that it is the only one that seeks to include the entire affected U.S. citizenry. To the contrary, the lawsuit which we filed before yours is much broader and [more] all-encompassing than your own.”
The conservative gadfly was smarting from Cuccinelli’s portrayal of Klayman’s suit in a news conference last week. Cuccinelli said it involves only “individual plaintiffs” and “does not provide relief for every American who’s using a telephone.”
“Everything they basically said was inaccurate, and it was calculated to create the impression that they’re the only case out there and that no one else did anything here,” Klayman told me Wednesday. “I’m offended by it.” He made similar arguments on the conservative WND Web site.
Cuccinelli responded Wednesday with an e-mail informing Klayman that “it has never been my habit as a lawyer to communicate with people through newspaper columns, so please don’t assume that method will be fruitful going forward. Email is much more effective and it comes without the presumption that you are not — in fact — talking to me.”
The former gubernatorial candidate said he would take Klayman’s comments “under advisement.” Paul’s senior adviser, Doug Stafford, issued a statement wishing “others who stand with us in this fight well.”
The out-of-court antics surrounding Paul and Cuccinelli are but a sideshow to the main issue of government surveillance — but it has been quite a sideshow, pitting prominent tea party figures against one another.
Paul and Cuccinelli are darlings of the tea party movement, and they’re joined in their lawsuit by the tea party group FreedomWorks — not to be confused with Freedom Watch, Klayman’s organization. Klayman, a well-known provocateur, held a rally last year to oust President Obama , whom he calls a “Marxist, pro-Islam, anti-American president.” Although often outlandish, he’s also a wily lawyer: Klayman made his name filing lawsuits against Bill Clinton but later antagonized George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in court.
The contretemps began as Paul and Cuccinelli filed their suit last week. Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer who had written most of the suit, had been removed from the filing. Fein’s ex-wife and longtime spokeswoman complained that Cuccinelli “stole” Fein’s work — which prompted a heated denial from Cuccinelli. Fein later issued a statement saying that she “was not speaking for me” and that he had “been paid for my work.” But his statement was contradicted by e-mails sent to and from Fein’s account.
Now Klayman is accusing Paul and Cuccinelli of filing a lawsuit that is “patterned after our own” but claiming it’s something different. “You should be accurate, particularly if you’re a senator and his lawyer,” he said.
Klayman, who has asked the Supreme Court to act on his case, also took issue with Cuccinelli’s announcement that Paul would not seek expedited handling — which probably means the case will stretch through Paul’s expected 2016 presidential run.
“The time is not for politics,” Klayman said. “The time is to get the job done and protect the American people.”
He said he “didn’t want to start a war” with the other plaintiffs, “but I do want these things corrected.”
That’s hardly surprising. The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s polling of competitive Senate races finds Obama’s support at 28 percent in West Virginia, 36 percent in Arkansas, 38 percent in Louisiana, 39 percent in Iowa and Michigan, 40 percent in Alaska and 42 percent in Colorado. Public polls find similar results for Obama in other competitive states, such as Kentucky, Georgia, New Hampshire, South Dakota, North Carolina and Montana.
“Seems like he might be welcome in Massachusetts,” quipped Brad Dayspring of the Republican group.
But if Obama is a toxic wingman for Democratic candidates, they desperately need his help fundraising. And they are grumbling that he hasn’t been willing enough to assist them. Even a marginally popular president remains a huge draw among party donors, but fundraising isn’t easily done from Brussels and Tokyo.
After weeks of complaining to the White House, Democrats said last week that Obama had committed to doing at least 18 fundraisers this year: six each for House Democrats, Senate Democrats and other party committees.
That came as a relief to Democrats, but it’s still a modest commitment. In 2006, when George W. Bush was even less popular than Obama and Republicans feared a loss of the House, Bush did 74 fundraising events, according to CBS News’s Mark Knoller, a meticulous presidential statistician. The Republican National Committee put the tally at 80 .
Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told me that the 18 events are those Obama has promised “thus far.” Democrats had better hope there are many more. Although individual Democratic committees have done reasonably well raising money, the Democratic National Committee is deeply in debt. At the end of the year it had $4.7 million in cash but $15.6 million in debt. The RNC had no debt and $9.2 million in cash.
On top of the DNC’s money disadvantage, the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling has put more pressure than ever on the party to raise funds to compete with outside groups. The billionaire Koch brothers and other mega-donors are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year to shape the midterm outcome, and Republicans enjoy a healthy majority of the super-rich. The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity has already spent millions targeting vulnerable Democrats.
Compounding some Democrats’ frustration, Obama has also been raising money for Organizing for America, his former campaign apparatus that now functions as something of a shadow DNC. “When you create your own ‘DNC’ with OFA, there’s a reason the actual DNC is in debt,” said one party operative.
There’s probably nothing that Obama could do in these midterm elections to match the conservative billionaires’ advantage. But at least giving it a try might prove more productive than his combination of foreign jaunts and unremarkable domestic speeches: at an electric equipment maker in Raleigh, N.C.; a gas engine plant in Waukesha, Wis.; a Costco in Lanham; and steel mills in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Then on Tuesday he was back in Maryland, at a Safeway distribution hub in Upper Marlboro “where delivery trucks get everything from Doritos to diapers where they need to go.”
Obama gave an on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand update on the economy: “The unemployment rate’s actually the lowest it’s been in over five years. But the trends, the long-term trends that have hurt middle-class families for decades, have continued.” He then spent the next 15 minutes talking about higher fuel-economy standards for trucks.
It’s a worthy cause, no doubt. But diapers, Doritos and diesel won’t deliver Democrats from a drubbing in November.
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