HELENA, Mont. — Sen. John Walsh’s name has been removed from the U.S. Army War College’s academic rolls and grinded from a plaque listing the members of the graduating class of 2007 after the college stripped him of his degree for plagiarism.
The announcement that the war college revoked the Montana Democrat’s 2007 master’s degree on Friday marked the end of a swift-moving controversy that began with a newspaper story in July and led to Walsh’s withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race weeks later.
The lingering question is what effect the academic review board’s plagiarism report will have on the Senate race between Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines and the Democratic nominee who replaced Walsh, state Rep. Amanda Curtis of Butte.
Probably none, according to Montana State University political analyst David Parker.
“I can’t see why it would matter at all. If he were still in the race, yes, there would be all kinds of consequences,” Parker said. “He’s gone, yesterday’s news.”
Republicans need a net gain of six seats in November to take Senate control. With Walsh gone and replaced by Curtis, a little-known state lawmaker without the time and resources to mount a campaign that matches Daines’, the GOP sees Montana as a prime target to pick up a seat that’s been in Democratic hands for more than a century.
“She’s a long shot, she was always a long shot,” Parker said. “She was always going to have a challenge against Steve Daines.”
The damage was done once Walsh dropped out of the race in the wake of a New York Times story showing Walsh borrowed heavily from other sources for the paper he wrote for a master of strategic studies degree in 2007. He remained as Montana’s junior U.S. senator, a seat he was appointed to in February when Max Baucus resigned to become ambassador to China.
Walsh wrote the paper as a 47-year-old colonel in the National Guard, a year away from becoming Montana’s adjutant general overseeing the state National Guard. His strategic research project was on the subject of spreading democracy in the Middle East, and was a requirement for the degree.
The college assigned an academic review board to investigate the plagiarism allegations raised by the Times. It took less than a day to hear the case and make its findings on Aug. 22. But the process of appeal and review wasn’t completed until Friday.
The review board’s report found the plagiarism “egregious.” A review of Walsh’s paper by the school’s director of communicative arts found little, if any, original language or research and that it was “primarily composed of verbatim liftings from other sources” presented as if they were Walsh’s own work.
Walsh appealed the findings and recommendation that his degree be revoked. War College Commandant Major Gen. William Rapp rejected the appeal in a letter dated Friday.
Walsh’s office released a statement saying the senator disagrees with the findings but accepts the college’s decision.
“I apologize to all Montanans for the plagiarism in my 2007 paper, and I am prepared to live with its consequences,” Walsh said in the statement. “I may not be a scholar, but I am proud to have been a soldier who has served Montana and this great nation for 33 years in uniform.”
Walsh spoke to members of the review board by phone the day before it convened in August. He admitted that he plagiarized the paper, but he said it was a mistake. Walsh also said he was taking medication for PTSD and that one of the soldiers he commanded in Iraq in 2005 had committed suicide in March 2007.
The board said in its findings that other students have had similar or more serious issues during their time at the war college, but they were able to do the work “without resorting to plagiarism or other cheating.”
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