HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Sen. John Walsh’s thesis written to earn a master’s degree from the U.S. Army War College contains unattributed passages taken word-for-word from previously published papers.
The Democrat is running against Republican Rep. Steve Daines to keep the seat Walsh was appointed to in February when Max Baucus resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China, and national Democrats said Wednesday they remained “100 percent behind Sen. Walsh.”
The apparent plagiarism in Walsh’s 2007 thesis, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” was first reported by The New York Times in a story posted online Wednesday afternoon. Walsh submitted the paper to earn his Master of Strategic Studies degree nearly two years after he returned from Iraq and about a year before he became Montana’s adjutant general overseeing the state’s National Guard and Department of Military Affairs.
Walsh’s campaign said the senator did not intend to plagiarize and that he would speak to The Associated Press later Wednesday.
“This was unintentional and it was a mistake. There were areas that should have been cited differently but it was completely unintentional,” spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua said in a statement. “Senator Walsh released every single evaluation that he received during his 33-year military career, which shows an honorable and stellar record of service to protecting Montana and serving this country in Iraq.”
The paper, reviewed by the AP after the Times posted its story and graphics online, includes a series of unattributed passages taken from the writings of other scholars.
The first page borrows heavily from a 2003 Foreign Affairs piece written by Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a 2009 book by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer called “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.”
Sharansky is a former Soviet dissident and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
All six of the recommendations that Walsh lists at the end of his paper are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie paper written by Carothers and three other scholars at the institute.
One section of the paper is nearly identical to about 600 words from a 1998 paper by Sean Lynn-Jones, a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.
Lynn-Jones said Walsh appears to have received a degree on the basis of work that was not entirely his, and that anyone seeking credit for an academic degree “needs to acknowledge where the material is coming from.”
Justin Barasky, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the committee stands behind Walsh.
“John Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it’s disgusting that Steve Daines and Washington Republicans are going to try denigrate John’s distinguished service after multiple polls show him gaining,” Barasky said. “Steve Daines should immediately denounce these latest smears and call for an end to all attacks on John Walsh’s record protecting Montana and serving his country.
Daines spokeswoman Alee Lockman said she had just seen the Times’ report and did not have an immediate comment.
Even before the plagiarism revelations, top Democratic strategists saw Walsh’s campaign as an uphill pull. They didn’t put it in the all-but-lost list with West Virginia and South Dakota, but they never counted on it as a key to holding their Senate majority.
Republicans need to gain six net seats this fall to control the Senate. If South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana are seen as likely GOP pickups, then Republicans would have several opportunities to grab the other three contests they need. Top on their lists are incumbent Democrats running in states President Barack Obama lost in 2012: Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Alaska.
News of Walsh’s apparent plagiarism will make fundraising harder, as he must persuade donors he has a decent chance to beat Daines. The aggressive statement from the DSCC, however, signals Democrats aren’t giving up on him, at least for now.
Walsh’s campaign also hit a rough patch in January when records revealed the U.S. Army reprimanded him in 2010 for pressuring Montana National Guard troops to join a private association for which he was seeking a leadership role.
Walsh was Montana adjutant general at the time he wanted to be vice chairman of the National Guard Association of the United States. In the reprimand, Army Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli said he questioned Walsh’s ability to lead.
Political scientist David Parker of Montana State University said Walsh’s thesis combined with the reprimand raise questions about the senator’s integrity and strike a blow to what has been the cornerstone of Walsh’s campaign — his 33-year military career.
“If this were it, in isolation, I don’t think it would be a big deal,” Parker said. “But now we’ve got two issues of honor and competency.”
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