UPDATED: Disgraced Rove aide named top lobbyist for Focus on the Family

Being a serial plagiarist may no longer be the professional equivalent of a hair shirt. Look at Vice President Joe Biden. Good thing for ex-Bush administration political operative Tim Goeglein too.

He’s been named the top Washington, D.C., lobbyist for Focus on the Family, according to a little-noticed “comings and goings” political column in the Fort Wayne, Ind., Journal Gazette.

Goeglein was personally recruited in 2001 by political mastermind Karl Rove to work in the Bush White House as chief liaison to conservative religious groups. There Goeglein rubbed elbows with some of the most powerful men in the evangelical movement — Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, convicted Watergate felon Chuck Colson who runs Prison Fellowships Ministries and then-president of the National Association of Evangelicals Ted Haggard.

“He is the key person that actually produced the evangelical vote in America,” Haggard told the Indianapolis Star. “It was Karl Rove’s initiative, but it was Tim that actually did it. When we call Tim, his office responds. He’s the one evangelical leaders across America have a relationship with.”

That was until Feb. 29, 2008, when ex-Fort Wayne News-Sentinel columnist-turned-blogger Nancy Nall stumbled across an odd reference in a Goeglein column written for her former paper. An ensuing investigation by the paper’s editors found he had plagiarized 20 of 38 columns and cited the works of such luminaries as the Dartmouth Review, Nixon speechwriter-cum-game show host Ben Stein and the Pope without credit.

Goeglein resigned his position with the White House by that afternoon and has apparently been kicking around the nation’s capital until his political rebirth as Focus’ primo lobbyist.

No word on just what he’ll be prowling the halls of Congress for on behalf of Focus’ many tax-exempt charitable subsidiaries; spokesman Gary Schneeberger hasn’t yet returned an e-mail inquiry. Though I am awfully curious if Goeglein’s pre-employment interview involved a good ol’ fashioned “spare the rod, spoil the child” whoopin’ by Dobson, who advocates corporal punishment for lying and misbehavior in his many parenting books.

UPDATE 6:11 p.m.: Spokesman Gary Schneeberger kindly forwarded a statement from Focus on the Family Action President and CEO Jim Daly announcing Goeglin’s appointment to the newly created position, vice president of external relations, and addressing head-on the matter of his plagiaristic ways:

Goeglein resigned from the Bush administration last February, after admitting to plagiarizing columns written for his hometown newspaper. He has accepted full responsibility for his actions, Daly said, and the matter is behind him.

“Tim has been forthright about his mistakes and humbly accepted the consequences of them – a pretty rare thing in Washington,” Daly said. “He is a Christian, and being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect – only that there is grace and forgiveness when you confess your imperfections. Tim has done that, and we welcome him to our team enthusiastically.”

I guess that dispels the rumors of a “Dare to Discipline” lobbyist thumping. Oh well, let’s hope Goeglein will extend the same sense of charity on Capitol Hill to Focus’ political opponents since the recent track record isn’t so great.

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