[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n his neck-and-neck re-election race against Ivy League-educated former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Congressman Mike Coffman is leaning heavily on his long service in the U.S. Army and Marines, presenting himself as a strong and straight working-class leader sworn to follow a military-grade ethical code.
“I went to the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps,” Coffman said at a debate in Aurora last month. “You went to Harvard and Yale. I don’t know what they taught you about honor and integrity there.”
It’s not the first time Coffman has stood on his service to call into question the ethics of others in the world of electoral politics.
He made headlines in 2012 when he called the appearance in uniform of Army Cpl. Jesse Thorsen at a Ron Paul campaign rally an ethical lapse that represented a “grave failure in leadership.”
The comments came in a scolding letter Coffman wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, saying that he thought the troops needed to be reminded about the rules governing participation in politics by active-duty, reserve and retired military personal.
“The soldier’s activities not merely skirted the margins of what is acceptable behavior, but demonstrated either a complete contempt for the standing policy or an unconscionable ignorance of it,” Coffman wrote. “I believe the existing regulations are appropriate policies that clearly express the intent of the Department of Defense. However, I see a grave failure in leaders in the chain of command’s ability to communicate and enforce them.”
Coffman wrote that the Pentagon must “reinforce what the regulations are and issue a warning to the respective service chiefs to ensure that this type of activity does not occur in the future.”
So, why then is Coffman now apparently violating those same policies? a Democratic source asks.
A Coffman campaign four-page fold-out flyer (pdf) disseminated to district residents includes images of the Congressman in uniform as the “primary graphic representation” (there are no non-military images of Coffman in the flyer) and make no mention of the fact that Coffman retired from the service years ago. That’s a clear violation of at least one and maybe two of the same Defense Department Directives Coffman railed about Army Cpl Thorsen being contemptuous toward or unconscionably ignorant of. (See full text of the Directives embedded below.)
The Coffman campaign didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Many people may see the apparent violations represented in the mailers as small beans. Coffman would not be not one of those people.
The fact that the Pentagon ordered an investigation of Thorsen’s appearance with the Paul campaign and reprimanded him for violating regulations didn’t fully satisfy Coffman. Coffman said that knowing and following the regulations is what matters.
“[T]he damage of [Thorsen’s] actions cannot be undone,” he told Panetta.