The office of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has released a statement on allegations that he has plagiarized in speeches, his recent book, and in a recent op-ed in the Washington Times. It comes from Paul’s senior advisor Doug Stafford:
In the thousands of speeches and op-eds Sen. Paul has produced, he has always presented his own ideas, opinions and conclusions. Sen. Paul also relies on a large number of staff and advisers to provide supporting facts and anecdotes – some of which were not clearly sourced or vetted properly.
Footnotes presenting supporting facts were not always used. Going forward, footnotes will be available on request. There have also been occasions where quotations or typesetting indentations have been left out through errors in our approval process. From here forward, quoting, footnoting and citing will be more complete.
Adherence to a new approval process implemented by Sen. Paul will ensure proper citation and accountability in all collaborative works going forward.
First of all, here’s one of these “how Washington works” things. Senators never write their own books or op-eds. Very few of them write their own speeches. That all goes to low-level communications staffers. Paul has made some poor choices in the past about those hires, so maybe it isn’t a surprise.
But a senator is still responsible for what comes out of his mouth and for what’s published under his name. To have a whole section plagiarized in a book is especially embarrassing. Yes, maybe you can get by blaming a formatting error for that. But what about the Washington Times op-ed on drug-sentencing policy, which seems to copy quite a bit of material almost verbatim but not quite? That suggests mens rea at some point in the process.
On the other side, in Paul’s defense, these things can and do happen by accident and just one bad subordinate is enough to make it happen. Whenever there are multiple people involved in the process of writing and approving something, the team needs only one weak link for everything to go wrong. But when it happens over and over and over again — well, then you’re dealing with a more serious problem.
We can assume Paul isn’t copying these things himself — there’s no reason at all to think he is, senators just don’t write their own stuff. But it’s hard to argue he is taking this problem seriously enough unless somebody’s head rolls. And it’s certainly not the thing you want people talking about when you’re running for president in 2016.