Last updated on 2014.03.25
I have no problem with folks getting photos of themselves standing next to really interesting machines of war.
But the military might have a problem with Major Ravnsborg's use of military machines and uniform in his campaign materials.
In announcing his candidacy this week, Ravnsborg describes himself as a four-tour U.S. Army transportation officer. He says he is "currently serving as a Major in a joint intelligence unit in Minneapolis with a top secret clearance." Currently serving suggests to me active duty. Ravnsborg is at least not using the word retired to describe his military status.
Now I've never flown an A-10 Warthog, but I think I can pilot us through this Department of Defense Directive on Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces:
4.1.2. A member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not:
126.96.36.199. Participate in partisan political fundraising activities (except as permitted in subparagraph 188.8.131.52.), rallies, conventions (including making speeches in the course thereof), management of campaigns, or debates, either on one’s own behalf or on that of another, without respect to uniform or inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement. Participation includes more than mere attendance as a spectator. (See subparagraph 184.108.40.206.)
...220.127.116.11. Speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.
18.104.22.168. Participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause [Department of Defense Directive No. 1344.10, 2008.02.19].
If Major Ravnsborg is actively majoring, he won't be calling for dollars or joining the debates with Annette, Stace, and Cardboard Mike (dang: Team Bosworth has totally not capitalized on that fun November meme).
Members not on active duty are freer to campaign, but they still face restrictions. Campaign communications including their duties, titles, positions, and photos in uniform must also include a disclaimer like this one:
“John Doe is a member of the Army National Guard. Use of his military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.” [DOD Directive No. 1344.10, section 22.214.171.124]
As of my last check, Ravnsborg includes no such disclaimer on his website. Neither does Marine Corps veteran Rep. Stace Nelson, who makes regular use of his old service pics in his campaign literature. But since Nelson is neither active nor reserve, his only obligation appears to be to make clear that he is retired... and besides, he's out of the service, so what's General Amos going to do, take away Stace's government-run health care?
Service members not on active duty still may not do the following in their campaign literature:
126.96.36.199. Use or allow the use of photographs, drawings, and other similar media formats of themselves in uniform as the primary graphic representation in any campaign media, such as a billboard, brochure, flyer, Web site, or television commercial. For the purposes of this policy, “photographs” include video images, drawings, and all other similar formats of representational media.
Ravnsborg is introducing himself to voters with the above A-10/uniform photo as his primary graphic representation. It appears on his website, in his first online ad, and with his first press announcement.
188.8.131.52. Depict or allow the depiction of themselves in uniform in a manner that does not accurately reflect their actual performance of duty. For the purpose of this policy, “photographs” include video images, drawings, and all other similar formats of representational media.
Does that include posing with equipment that the soldier doesn't operate? Maybe that's nitpicking, but as I understand the military, if you get an order, you don't say, "No way, sir, that's nitpicking." You follow the order. And this Defense Department directive seems to give active and reserve duty soldiers pretty clear orders against doing some of the things Major Ravnsborg is doing on his political campaign website.