A DIFFERENT KIND OF CONTROVERSY FOR RAND PAUL…. In general, right-wing Senate candidate Rand Paul has generated controversy with his extremist ideology. Now, the Kentucky Republican has a more professional problem on his hands.

U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul says he is a “board-certified” ophthalmologist — even though the national clearinghouse for such certifications says he hasn’t been for the past five years.

Rand Paul, who practices in Bowling Green, says he is certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology, a group that he incorporated in 1999 and that he heads.

But that entity is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, which works with the American Medical Association to approve such specialty boards.

The American Board of Medical Specialties lists 24 approved certification boards for practicing physicians. To be a “board certified” doctor, as Rand Paul claims, he would need recognition from the American Board of Ophthalmology, the nation’s main ophthalmological certification group.

He doesn’t. Paul had certification from the board, but let it lapse. He is now recognized by the National Board of Ophthalmology.

And what’s the National Board of Ophthalmology? I’m glad you asked. That’s a separate certification organization, created by Rand Paul and his relatives, that recognizes Rand Paul. Rand Paul, in fact, is listed as the “owner/president” of his own certification board.

The Louisville Courier-Journal sought comment from Paul on this, the candidate said he was unwilling to “go through all that right now.” Asked when he might be willing to discuss his own professional background, Paul said, “Uh, you know, never.”

Paul’s wife is the vice president of the National Board of Ophthalmology, and was asked what requirements the board makes for certification. She refused to say.

His campaign manager added that Paul would only answer questions on the matter submitted in writing. Seriously.

Paul’s position, apparently, is that this is not relevant to his candidacy. He told the Courier-Journal, “What does this have to do with our election?”

Rand Paul may not understand this, but he’s never held elected office at any level. He wants to be elected to the U.S. Senate as a “board certified” ophthalmologist. If he’s not, in reality, board certified, this has more than a little relevance to his candidacy.

Update: Paul has issued a statement responding to the issue, arguing that he created his own board because he was unsatisfied with the way the established certification organizations operate.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.