Same here, like I've commented before there are sites which purchase content (actually was approached by a large news type distribution site about buying their content) which we don't do and never will do because it adds no value, but sites which do this and republish word for word are still ranking strong.
Have not, and have never purchased a link. Content gets linked to naturally, and if there is a weakness it's that have not been actively seeking links. Very old established site so has links but only natural ones. Maybe that's the problem.... who knows this one is certainly the worst I've seen in over 10+ years.