Does a Silicon Valley Scandal Spell Trouble for Rand Paul’s Presidential Campaign?

AP Photo/The Daily News, Austin Anthony
AP Photo/The Daily News, Austin Anthony

A major player in Rand Paul’s finance team stands accused of caddish behavior and sexual assault, and the civil litigation is ongoing. Indeed, the case could become an issue in Paul’s potential presidential run.

The story has been in the media for weeks: On February 3, New York Magazine headlined, “The Sickening Rape Allegations Against a Silicon Valley Mogul.”
Yet the dam really broke on February 11, in the wake of a huge article in The New York Times Magazine, bringing still more unwanted publicity to venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of Palantir Technologies, a major defense contractor.
Now, New York and Washington DC, as well as Silicon Valley, are buzzing about Lonsdale. In particular, political insiders are speculating on the impact that the brewing scandal could have on the Kentucky Senator’s presidential campaign.
The Times story is the sordid stuff of tabloids—romantic trips to Rome, business trips to Hong Kong, the loss of virginity, forlorn prayers in St. Peter’s Basilica, attempted business deals to sell Haitian chocolate, eating disorders, a fetish for menstrual blood—but the basic facts are not in dispute: Lonsdale had a sexual relationship with a former Stanford University student, Elise Clougherty, a part-time model now studying in graduate school at the University of Virginia.
Moreover, it seems certain that the East Coast Ivy League outrage/litigation machine will be engaged in the case as well: The author of the Times Magazine story, Emily Bazelon, is not only a staff writer for the magazine, but she is also the “Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School.” Truman Capote? Yes, really, Truman Capote.
Yale Law School, of course, is the alma mater of such liberal crusaders as Ralph Nader, Jerry Brown, Marian Wright Edelman, Anita Hill—and, oh yes, Bill and Hillary Clinton. So we can expect that Lonsdale’s business relationships, including with the Pentagon, will be carefully scrutinized.
The Lonsdale-Clougherty relationship began in 2012 and ended the following year.  Since then, litigation has commenced: Clougherty has filed a civil suit against Lonsdale, alleging that she has been “damaged and injured physically, emotionally, and financially.”  She adds that she is now suffering from “pain, anxiety, depression, severe emotional distress, embarrassment, ridicule. . . as well as loss of health, future relationships, income, employment, and future career benefits and earning potential.”
For his part, Lonsdale has counter-sued Clougherty for defamation, accusing his ex of a “malicious campaign of lies,” and characterizing the litigation as a “vengeful, personal attack by a disturbed former girlfriend.” Lonsdale has even set up a website providing copious detail to his side of the story.
The only sure outcome is a field-day for the MSM—both its politics division, and its tabloid division. The impact on Lonsdale is obvious. The impact on Rand Paul is yet to be determined.