In anticipation of the upcoming midterm elections, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) PAC announced the group's official political endorsements. According to their website, the PAC "is dedicated to the support of candidates who have taken responsible positions on issues involving national defense and legislation pertaining to our nation's veterans." But he PAC's endorsements are drawing some criticism from members and the VFW's national line officers who are calling the group's endorsement methodology process "seriously flawed at best this year and in immediate need of extensive review."
“Even though the law requires that VFW-PAC be a separate organization, the acronym ‘VFW’ is attached to the committee and the natural assumption is that the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is somehow making the endorsement decisions. Nothing could be further from the truth, but perception is reality,” said National Commander Richard Eubank.
“Obviously, an organization's political positions have to reflect the opinions of its members. But those opinions can't be perceived as ‘off the wall,’ and the methodology used this year to grade candidates obviously is skewed in favor of the incumbent," he said. "That isn’t fair, and it actually subverts the democratic process.”
The endorsement of some incumbent candidates are causing an uproar among members, including an endorsement for Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who infamously dressed down a brigadier general for calling her "ma'am" during a congressional hearing.
The VFW-PAC has also endorsed Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., the author of H.R. 5353, the "War is Making You Poor Act."
Blackfive military blogger Mr. Wolf condemned the VFW-PAC's endorsements, claiming the organization "no longer abides by the very virtues our veterans lived and died by." The group's first round of endorsements didn't receive much attention, but as more endorsements were announced -- including some key races where the PAC endorsed "non-veterans over some highly qualified veterans from within their own organization," it caught fire, Wolf explains.
Another race Wolf specifically objects to is the endorsement of Rep. Ron Klein, D-Fla., over retired Lt. Colonel Allen West. "LTC West, a hero from Iraq, and a member of the local VFW, is leading in the polls for that race. Yet, here they were, the VFW going with the incumbent, non-serving, Democrat in the race."
Worse, Wolf says, is a report from the Weekly Standard that Rep. Klein "voted against funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq back in 2008, voted for withdrawal timetables in 2007, and voted for the House concurrent resolution in 2007 which expressed disapproval of the Iraq War surge."
"For many, that was the last straw in a series of gaffs the VFW has been doing since the Obama administration began," Wolf wrote at Big Peace.
In a letter addressed to the PAC's Executive Director, the VFW's Florida Commander scolded the PAC, claiming its decision to endorse Klein over West would have "lasting and negative consequences on our ability to recruit and retain members in the Department of Florida."
"It is evident from the tone of the received emails that the VFW-PAC and by association the Veterans of Foreign Wars is not sewing the interests of some members and potential members. This regional firestorm could have been avoided if the PAC board and staff remembered the old adage that all politics are local," State Commander Pete Nicholsen wrote.
According to Wolf, the endorsements "ignited a firestorm" among VFW members who called and wrote into the group's national headquarters. As for Wolf himself, a member of the VFW since he returned from Iraq, he says he's renounced his membership and is asking others to do the same. "The current leadership is too entrenched, and the process too long to do that. The ONLY way to effect any change is via their pocketbook- period. Resign, drain their coffers of member dues, and they’ll change far quicker."
John Lilyea, a military blogger at This Ain't Hell and 20-year member of the VFW, shares Wolf's frustration but says he's sticking with the organization to try and work for change from within. "I’ll admit that resigning my membership was my first reaction," he writes, "but then I realized that it would probably do more damage than good."
But members of the VFW who may object to the group's endorsements or endorsement process will have no recourse in this year's elections. Instead, the national organization is now pledging to address the issue in 2011. "Because of the controversy surrounding the endorsements, VFW line officers have decided to bring the question of continued existence of the PAC to the floor during the 112th VFW national convention in August," the group says.