Thursday, June 9, 2016

Political campaigning and uniforms

An interesting issue has arisen in Australia: what to do about candidates for public office who use photos of themselves in uniform for campaign purposes? Once a person leaves the service, the military no longer has authority to tell them what to do. Solution: seek new legislation. This is what the Australia Defence Force is considering, according to this Sydney Morning Herald report. Excerpt:
[Former SAS office and Liberal MP Andrew] Hastie, the member for the WA [Western Australia] seat of Canning, was sacked by the Army reserves for refusing to take down billboards that showed him in his uniform. Mr Hastie hit back, telling The West Australian that former army chief, retired Lieutenant-General David Morrison, had "politicised the ADF long before I ever put my mug on a billboard". He added that the now Australian of the Year had "hastened my exit from the Army into politics". 
The issue has gone beyond Mr Hastie, with Labor candidate Pat O'Neill also facing dismissal from the reserves for failing to meet his promise to take down similar billboards in the seat of Brisbane where is he campaigning. 
"Mr O'Neill has not removed the billboard signage and Defence is considering further administrative action," a Defence spokesperson said.
With the increasing emergence of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in American politics, similar issues are certain to arise in the U.S., as they have occasionally in the past. According to this political campaign tip from Engage Media,
Idaho congressional candidate Vaughn Ward, who is a major in the Marine reserves, was recently told by the Marine Corps that he violated a Pentagon directive by wearing his military uniform in a political campaign Internet advertisement. In the ad, Vaughn is shown wearing camouflage and body armor with his rifle at his side.
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While military law doesn’t explicitly forbid active military members from using a picture of themselves in uniform on political campaign ads, the Pentagon does require that the ads have “prominent and clearly displayed disclaimers that neither the military information nor photographs imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or their particular Military Department.” 
Additionally, the directive also prohibits images of candidates “in uniform as the primary graphic representation” in campaign material. 
Veterans who are no longer active members of the military don’t need to worry about including this disclaimer on their campaign materials if they include an old picture of themselves in uniform. You shouldn’t, however, try to design commercials, fliers, brochures or advertisements in a way that is intended to trick voters into thinking that you’re still an active member of the United States military. 
Political candidates running in local elections have every right to be proud of their military service and mention it in their campaign literature and advertising. Still, make sure that you take care to follow the directives of the Pentagon if you’re still an active member of the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines . . . and don’t deceive anyone into thinking you’re still active if you aren’t.
The October 2015 DoD Ethics Counselor's Deskbook advises:
6. Members not on active duty who are nominees or candidates for covered offices may, in their campaign literature (including Web sites, videos, television, and conventional print advertisements):

a. Use or mention their military rank or grade and military service affiliation, but they must clearly indicate their retired or reserve status; 
b. Include their current or former specific military duty, title, or position, or photographs in military uniform, when displayed with other non- military biological details. This must be accompanied by a clearly displayed disclaimer that the information or photographs do not imply official endorsement;

c. Use of photographs, drawings, and other similar media formats of the member in uniform cannot be the primary graphic representation in any campaign material. Depictions of the member in uniform cannot misrepresent their actual performance of duty.
An ethics ruling from Nebraska's Accountability and Disclosure Commission provides an interesting civilian counterpoint. In 1994, the Commission held:
A county sheriff, while not subject to the provisions of Section 20-160, is subject to the provisions of Section 49-14,101(4) and is therefore prohibited from engaging in overt and deliberate campaign activities while in uniform. The sheriff may use photos of himself in uniform for campaign literature and may respond to questions or inquiries from the public, even if campaign related in nature, while in uniform and on duty.

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