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The Coloradoan has an update today on whether Rep. Marilyn Musgrave’s introduction of a uniformed Marine at a Republican party dinner in Fort Collins violated military regulations. (Background here.) According to a spokesperson at the Marine Corps Headquarters’ public affairs office, no rules were violated because the Marine did not speak at the event, he was just being honored.
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John Jones, who served in the military and is chairman of the Larimer County Democratic Party, however, questioned the Marine Corps’ interpretation of the code.
“I would want to know exactly why they think it’s OK, because the military code of justice I read says it’s illegal,” Jones said. “It was inappropriate even for them to be invited to a partisan event. These soldiers fight for American people, not just the Republican Party.”
It appears that the issue is now whether an active member of the armed forces can attend a partisan event in uniform. Let’s go to the Military Regs, specifically, NUMBER 1344.10, August, 2004, the subject of which is “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty.”
It is DoD policy to encourage members of the Armed Forces (hereafter referred to as “members”) to carry out the obligations of citizenship. While on active duty, however, members are prohibited from engaging in certain political activities. The following DoD policy shall apply:
4.1.1. A member on active duty may:
….188.8.131.52. Attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings, rallies, or conventions as a spectator when not in uniform.
Logically, one would think that the reverse is true: One cannot attend partisan political meetings as a spectator while wearing his or her uniform.
Moving on to Enclosure 3 which specifies permissible and prohibited activities, the following appears under the prohibited section. A member may not:
E3.3.18. Attend partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces.
If a Marine is invited to an event because of his military service, does that make him an “official representative of the Armed Forces?” I have no idea.
But this paragraph leads me to the conclusion that Rep. Musgrave’s and the Marine’s actions were inappropriate:
In determining whether an activity violates the traditional concept that Service members should not engage in partisan political activity, rules of reason and common sense shall apply. Any activity that may be viewed as associating the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security, in the case of the Coast Guard, or any component of these Departments directly or indirectly with a partisan political activity shall be avoided.
Reason and common sense dictate that at a minimum, the honoring of a marine at a Republican Party dinner might be viewed as indirectly associating the Department of Defense or the Marines with the partisan political event.