Some Republican candidates may be offering voters more than they bargained for in the fall midterms.
At least four prominent GOP candidates have claimed to have received classified information or have special roles in law enforcement. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out Monday that in each case there is little or no evidence to back up the candidates' claims.
"There are a lot of secret agents," said Maddow. "Fake secret agents running for office this year."
First, Maddow reported the latest news that Senate candidate from Delaware Christine O'Donnell had once claimed that she had access to classified information which showed that China was plotting to take over the US.
The Associated Press first reported the details Monday.
Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell of Delaware said in a 2006 debate that China was plotting to take over America and claimed to have classified information about the country that she couldn't divulge.
She said China had a "carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over America" and accused one opponent of appeasement for suggesting that the two countries were economically dependent and should find a way to be allies.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent obtained audio of the debate where O'Donnell says, "I wish I wasn't privy to some of the classified information that I am privy to."
At the time of Maddow's broadcast, the State Department was not able to find any information confirming O'Donnell or the nonprofit organization she worked for had ever received any classified information. O'Donnell's campaign didn't respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
New York candidate for governor Carl Paladino was the next "fake secret agent" on Maddow's list. The candidate told Syracuse.com that he had a role in helping to end a hostage situation at Syracuse University in 1970.
Then on May 7, a dissident faction of students occupied the administration building. According to Paladino, the students wouldn’t let SU Chancellor John Corbally out of the building.
“When the riots came, I was the one who negotiated for Chief Sardino to take the place of the chancellor, who the students had locked down in the administration building ..,” he said. “Sardino had the idea that he would come up and they would let the chancellor leave and take him as their hostage, if you wanted to call it. ... So when Sardino came up with this idea I negotiated with these guys, who agreed to let the chancellor go and take Sardino in his place ...
“Sardino asked me if I would do it, and I said sure. So I went out and found them and I said, you know, ‘Take the police commissioner and let the chancellor go home. The guy’s got to take a shower, I mean for God sakes ...’ So they said, ‘Yeah, OK’.”
But at least one history professor who visited the administration building during the protest said Paladino's version of events could have never happened.
"That’s completely wrong," David Bennett told Syracuse.com. "He's either living in Cloud Cuckooland or, shall we say, his historical memory is clouded by whatever it is."
Bennett said no one was held hostage during the protests. That is confirmed by several others who were there and by news accounts from the time.
Jules Smith, a Rochester attorney and former classmate of Paladino who visited the administration building that night, said he doesn’t know of any involvement by Paladino. “I have the feeling that this may be an urban legend in Carl’s mind,” he said.
Maddow recounted the tales of two other Republican candidates who also claimed to have claimed to be undercover or have classified information.
Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes was Maddow's agent "003." In an interview with The Associated Press, Maes said he had worked undercover with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to expose a gambling ring inside his girlfriend's house.
Maes said he told them everything they wanted to know, and they asked him to keep them informed about what was going on inside his girlfriend`s house. A month later, Maes said he was shocked when Police Chief Rick Kistner called him into his office and told him he was being fired for continuing to associate with possible criminals.
"My best recollection was, I was being dismissed because I was associating with people of bad character, and that reflected poorly on the Liberal Police Department," he said.
American Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo has questioned Maes` version of events and urged him to release his personnel file. Maes said he has requested copies of that file and will make them public when he receives them.
But Bob Blecha, director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, told The Associated Press that there was no record of Maes working with the Bureau.
Maes later released his personnel record showing that his boss knew he did meet with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation about an alleged gambling ring.
The records indicate that Maes was fired from the police force for telling his girlfriend and her family that they were under investigation.
Alan West was presented at Maddow's final "fake secret agent." West told the Pompano, Fla., Civic Association that he had a higher security classification that the president.
"I had a Top Secret/Security Compartmented Information classification, that is the highest you can have in the United States Army," West said on Sept. 21. "You don’t get a security classification like that if you have financial issues like that. I still retain a Secret security clearance. And I tell you, if you look at the application for a security clearance, I have a clearance that even the president of the United States cannot obtain because of my background."
Politfact rated West's statement as a "pants on fire" lie.
The first is that West is saying that he had a higher security clearance than someone occupying the office of president of the United States. Even if you assume that he was referring to the period in which West held a TS/SCI, our experts say he's wrong.
"The president is the one who established the security clearance system by executive order," said Steven Aftergood, a national security and intelligence specialist with the Federation of American Scientists. "Therefore it is nonsensical to speak of clearances higher than what the president has. As head of the executive branch and commander in chief of the armed forces, there is no information in government that could be denied to the president for security reasons if he determined he needed access to that information."
West's claim "makes no sense," said Maddow. "That's like saying you're even more magically delicious than the Lucky Charms leprechaun."
Maddow wondered why with the anti-establishment mood in the country was the Republican Party not able to keep these more fringe candidates off the ticket.
"Did we just lose the 'delusional person thinks he's a secret agent but he really isn't' filter that we didn't know we needed until we lost ours?"
Maddow asked Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson to reflect on the four candidates.
"They could win," he said. "They could be representing actual US citizens in the US Senate or as governor of a great state and you know, you used the word delusional. I don't know if that might not be fairly mild about some of this stuff."
"What needs to happen, I think, is that people need to call them out on these sorts of irrational nonlinear statements they're making," said Robinson. "I know you're mad, I know you're angry. But come on. Elect angry people who make sense. Don't elect angry people who are crazy or two seem to be crazy because we're all going to be sorry if you do that."
"That's perfect. Don't elect people who might be crazy, and I don't mean it as a euphemism. Crazy is not a euphemism. That would be great bumper sticker," concluded Maddow.
This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Oct. 4, 2010.