Part 3: The VFW's Suicide PAC(t)

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has doubled-down on failure.

Ignoring the growing protests of its outraged members, the supposedly “independent” VFW Political Action Committee (VFW-PAC) has issued a new statement refusing to back off on the disgraceful set of endorsements that have threatened the venerable and (at least at the local level) respected organization with destruction.

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The short version: “Our members are partisan morons who ought to sit back and let us decide what’s good for them.” The long version:

VFW-PAC Stands By Endorsement Process

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct 13,2010 – The VFW-PAC was established in 1979 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) as a separate, nonpartisan organization charged with the single task of working in Congress to support candidates who have taken responsible positions on issues involving national defense and legislation pertaining to the nation’s veterans.

An eleven member Board of Directors reviews and establishes the criteria used for the endorsement process each election cycle. This cycle the Board chose a methodology for endorsement that was used successfully in years past; grading an incumbent’s support by the position taken on critical issues of importance to the VFW. Therefore, thirteen roll call votes in the House of Representatives and nine votes in the Senate that aligned with VFW priority goals were selected to grade the support of incumbent members of Congress. The bar was set high, as a Senator must have voted in concert with the VFW position on 7 of 9 votes and a Representative 10 of 13 to receive the VFW-PAC endorsement. If a member of Congress failed to make the grade, the Board would consider a challenger for that Congressional seat. The Board would also consider candidates running for open seats. Both challengers and open seat candidates would have to state in writing their position on VFW priority goals.

There are a few races out of 356 endorsed candidates in both the House and Senate, where emotions are running high, that are getting a lot of attention. In some cases there are veterans and even VFW members running against Congressional incumbents endorsed by the VFW-PAC. It would not only be unfair, but contrary to VFW-PAC By-Laws to disregard the incumbent’s record of support and endorse another candidate. The VFW-PAC will not abandon those in Congress that have supported issues of critical importance to our nation’s security and veterans.

In the political endorsement arena, there will always be party loyalists and individuals that will not agree with the VFW-PAC decision. The Board respects their position and appreciates their activism in support of the candidate of their choice. The VFW-PAC endorsement is not designed to tell people how to vote; but to point out who has demonstrated support for veterans and America’s security.

The VFW-PAC disagrees with those who claim the endorsement process is skewed, flawed, or unfair. Some incumbents will have an advantage over another candidate because they have a good voting record on the issues. They also have a disadvantage if their votes don’t support the VFW’s position. Holding lawmakers accountable and judging them by their actions on legislative issues is a fair and necessary standard. This Congress has been very good to veterans and incumbent endorsements reflect that support.

The VFW-PAC stands by the endorsement process used during the 2010 election cycle.

There’s something to be said for consistency. In this case, that something is, “What the hell are you thinking?” This pathetic, self-serving statement – like the one put out Monday by the VFW leadership – ignores the real issue while simultaneously insulting the members.

Veterans concerned that their good name is being used by a candidate who consorts with Hanoi Jane Fonda and Code Pink are instead labeled as “party loyalists.” Sometimes there is no gray area. If a veterans group can’t even take a position that buddying-up with Jane Fonda and Code Pink is beyond the pale, it’s outlived its usefulness as a national organization.

The loyalty of the VFW-PAC is touching: “The VFW-PAC will not abandon those in Congress that have supported issues of critical importance to our nation’s security and veterans.” Too bad that loyalty does not extend to those who merely served their nation in wartime. Apparently loyalty only extends to those willing to check the block on some scorecard then fly home to sip chardonnay with folks who posed for pictures on North Vietnamese AA guns.

Let’s take a look at some of the other awesome endorsements the savvy political geniuses at the VFW are standing behind:

We all know about LTC (Ret.) Allen West – who is actually a member of the VFW thanks to his service in Desert Storm and Iraq – being passed over for his opponent, Ron Klein (D-FL), who’s military record consists of playing with a G.I. Joe in third grade.

There’s Barbara Lee (D-CA); she’s the only one in Congress who voted against going after the 9/11 terrorists. Great choice there, guys. You’ve really got your fingers on the pulse of your membership.

How about picking Pelosi rubberstamp Mike McIntyre (D-NC) over Illario Pantano in the North Carolina 7th District race? All Pantano did was actually, you know, serve in a war.

And it’s backing Barney Frank (D-MA) over Marine Sean Bielat. That’s easy to understand. Beilat’s just been a Devil Dawg; he’s never done anything big – like personally help torpedo the financial industry and with it our whole economy. Another awesome selection, dudes.

The VFW, which seems to have trouble deciding whether it can or cannot influence the VFW-PAC, needs to act. This cannot wait until some convention next summer. The leadership must call an immediate meeting and eliminate the VFW-PAC entirely – before the election, not after. They have already managed to alienate their existing members while driving away the next generation. This could well be the beginning of the end of the VFW.

I asked Paul Chabot, an Iraq War veteran and VFW Life Member who is the leader of the Veterans for Carly Fiorina, Barbara Boxer’s opponent, what he thinks. His words should sting the leadership to their core: “I am ashamed of the VFW.” [Full Disclosure: I am listed as a “Veteran for Carly” but I have not been active in the campaign]. Chabot wants “the VFW headquarters to call for an emergency meeting to take into the question the very existence of the PAC – and to do so before the November 2nd election.” He’s not alone – but if the VFW leadership does not unscrew this mess pronto they soon will be.

Starting in basic training, the first thing you are taught to do when your buddy is hit is to “stop the bleeding.” The VFW needs to do that now – not later. Hanging in the balance is the fate of the entire organization, one that at the local level has provided essential services to veterans new and old for decades. Gentlemen, your present course is not a strategy – it is a suicide pact.

Gentlemen, you must do the right thing. Stop the bleeding.

CORRECTION: The VFW has correctly pointed out that the endorsement list does not include Barney Frank (D-MA); however, it likewise does not endorse Marine veteran Sean Bielat, who is running against Frank. It provided no explanation regarding why the VFW-PAC endorsed the opponents of combat veterans Ilario Pantano and Allen West or why it endorsed Code Pink’s “beloved” Barbara Boxer (D-CA).


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