February 9, 2016

Joe Sestak Hit With Second Ethics Complaint For Misuse Of Military Title

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group run by a former U.S. attorney, has filed a second ethics complaint to the Department of Defense regarding Pennsylvania senate candidate Joe Sestak’s continued use of his military rank in campaign materials in violation of military code.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first reported the complaint:

DOD ethics guidelines require military retirees not on active duty to clearly indicate their retired or reserve status when running for office.

Sestak’s campaign does not.

Sestak was asked about this during a recent speech before the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg – the moderator asked him: “Why do you maintain it’s appropriate to regularly use your military rank in your political campaign when military protocol, the Defense Department, the Hatch Act and general good bearing and decorum recommend against it?”

“I totally disagree with that,” Sestak replied.

FACT filed an initial complaint to the Defense Department on July 15, 2015, following Sestak’s campaign launch and persistent use of his military title. The new complaint highlights Sestak’s admission that he is aware of the rule and is simply choosing to ignore it:

Yet, even more egregious is Mr. Sestak’s knowledge of the Directive and complete disregard for it.  In January 2016, when asked about his violations of the Defense Department Directive and other ethical rules prohibiting his behavior, Mr. Sestak indicated that he simply disagreed with the rules.  His disagreement, however, is irrelevant.  While we certainly honor and respect Mr. Sestak’s service, it does not permit him to purposefully defy the rules set in place to prevent this type of behavior.  It is especially troubling that he is clearly aware of the rules prohibiting his behavior, and knowingly and purposefully defied them because he disagrees with them.

Read FACT’s full ethics complaint here.