WASHINGTON — A soldier’s on-stage endorsement of presidential candidate Ron Paul following the Iowa caucuses last week has prompted defense officials to send out reminders on how troops can and can’t participate in the upcoming elections.
The soldier, Army reservist Cpl. Jesse Thorsen, gave an interview in uniform on CNN speaking in support of Paul’s campaign, then later appeared on-stage with the Republican presidential hopeful at a post-caucus rally. Pentagon officials the next day acknowledged that Thorsen had violated military rules concerning election-year campaigning.
Army Reserve spokeswoman Maj. Angela Wallace said that Thorsen’s chain of command is still considering what punishment he should face. Potential penalties range from a letter of reprimand to a reduction in rank or dismissal from the service, but Wallace said she would not speculate on the specifics in this case.
Meanwhile, defense officials said they are in the process of issuing their regular election-year guidance, to remind both military and Defense Department civilians of the rules governing their involvement in political activities. Servicemembers will start seeing those notices in coming weeks.
Troops are allowed to vote and attend political rallies, but not in uniform. They are specifically banned from making public political speeches or working for any partisan political campaigns. Bumper stickers on private cars are allowed, but not on official government vehicles.
Civilian employees in the Defense Department can be active in campaigns, but are not permitted to take part in fundraising activities.
A full list of the rules is available on the Department of Defense website.