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. “LOL I planted that because I know you are dumb as a box of rocks.”
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.
“Untrue,” said Doug Stafford, executive director of RANDPAC, when asked about the story. “Bruce was one of several attorneys. And he was paid.”
On Thursday morning Stafford forwarded reporters an email from Bruce Fein himself. “Mattie Lolavar was not speaking for me,” wrote the attorney, pointedly using his ex-wife’s maiden name. “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.”
If Bruce Fein is lucky, the decision to cut ties with Mattie will end the story. It just comes a little late. The Snowden case was a highlight, maybe the highlight, of his career, and the alliance with the Pauls won him a loyal following and a large audience. He could patch up those relationships. His friends certainly want him to. But as Rand Paul’s national profile rises, some people can’t rise with it.