New rules for military on running for office
Stars and Stripes
Thinking of throwing your hat in the ring for political office? Military members inspired to do so will want to review a recently revised directive from the Defense Department.
One of the biggest changes is the expansion of restrictions and limitations to include those serving in the National Guard — even when not activated — and Coast Guard members at all times, whether serving under the Defense Department or Homeland Security.
“We’re really looking for the guys that aren’t on active duty. That’s the biggest expansion of this policy,” said Army Col. Shawn Shumake, director of legal policy in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
That’s not the only change in the 15-page document titled “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.”
The current directive, which replaces the 2004 version, adds more stringent limitations on campaign activity. It addresses specific issues such as photographs of servicemembers in uniform in campaign literature and Web site content. “Section 4-3 is entirely new. One of the most important things that we’ve done is to give some guidance in this area,” Shumake noted.
For example, if a candidate is photographed in uniform for a campaign ad, a disclaimer must clearly state that information or photos do not carry an endorsement by the Defense Department. The ad also must accurately reflect the candidate’s actual military job.
The changes to the directive are not linked to an increase in the number of troops seeking political office, officials said, but there has been a surge in them since the 2004 directive nevertheless.
The political action committee VET PAC listed 77 candidates with military service running for Congress in 2006. Several now hold office, including U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., and Tim Walz, D-Minn.
Those on active duty face big limitations on campaigning for office.
“Those limitations are huge,” Shumake said. “Basically, you can be a candidate or nominee, but you can’t do anything. You cannot, while on active duty, campaign. Some people will turn it over to a spouse or a campaign manager, and they’ve got to do it all. You’ve got to keep out of it. There is no behind-the-scenes game playing. It is an absolute, 100 percent prohibition.”
The restrictions are rooted in the constitutional philosophy of maintaining a clear separation between the branches of government, said Shumake.
“It’s in keeping with a general tightening of the rules to really try to separate the executive function from the legislative function under the concept of separation of powers,” Shumake said.
The new directive can be viewed in its entirety at http://www.dtic.mil/whs/diretives/corres/pdf/134410p.pdf.