Plagiarism Probably Just Ended a Senate Race in Montana

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 23 2014 4:55 PM

Plagiarism Probably Just Ended a Senate Race in Montana

OK, Democrats, here's the good news: Montana Sen. John Walsh was not likely to win his race this fall. No poll showed him winning; the only ray of hope, recently, came in a PPP survey that showed him trailing Rep. Steve Daines by 7. This was not seen by anyone as a jump-ball race like North Carolina's or Colorado's. The Democratic "firewall" had been built elsewhere.

The bad news? Jonathan Martin's reporting has revealed that Walsh, formerly adjutant general of the state National Guard and formerly the state's lieutenant governor, clearly plagiarized sections of the essay that completed his degree from the Army War College. The story gets more brutal with every paragraph, but strong men may start weeping (or laughing, depending on partisan affiliation) when they see that the essay in question was 14 pages long.

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And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee really has nothing to say about the plagiarism.

No one's denying that Walsh served in Iraq. His campaign, up to now, had leaned heavily on that fact.

But the list of people who have recovered from plagiarism charges in the heat of campaigns is blank. The most useful precedent came four years ago, in Colorado, where Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Scott McInnis was kneecapped by revelations that he'd taken a cushy foundation job where he published plagiarized material. If anything, Walsh's story is worse—it's academic, and it got him a degree that advanced his career. He might not be a senator today without that 14-page paper. Which he plagiarized.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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