Retired Air Force Officer Blasts Clinton While in Uniform

In an egregious violation of Department of Defense policy, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel has recorded an ad critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while appearing to wear a flight suit complete with unit patches and rank insignia. Wendy Rogers is a three-time Republican Congressional candidate in Arizona, and she most recently lost the GOP primary in the state’s 1st Congressional District in August. Rogers is also a retired Air Force pilot who was one of the first female pilots in the service.

“As a pilot in the United States Air Force, I was entrusted with classified information. We were always taught that you don’t send or receive classified information through unsecured channels,” Rogers says before going on to criticize Hillary Clinton for using a private, unsecured e-mail server to send and receive classified information.

Rogers was also taught that you can’t mix your uniform and politics.

A Department of Defense prohibition on wearing one’s military uniform while communicating a partisan political message is still very much in effect. A 2008 directive from the DOD explicitly outlines what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to political activity by active duty, reserve component and retired military personnel.

“Subject to any other restrictions in law, a member of the Armed Forces not on active duty may

[engage in political activity] provided the member is not in uniform and does not otherwise act in a manner that could reasonably give rise to the inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement,” DOD Directive 1344.10 reads.

The ad Rogers appears in is sponsored by Veterans for a Strong America, a group that has raised about $87,713 according to the Federal Election Commission. While the ad does not explicitly tell viewers who to vote for or against, the message certainly allows viewers to make the “inference,” to barrow from the DOD directive, that they – like Lt. Col. Rogers – should not vote for Clinton.

Rogers could try to skirt the issue of wearing her uniform by claiming that she is a retiree. But the DOD directive also includes guidance for those who have left military service. Paragraph 4.3.1.1 explains that while it is okay for former service members to mention their rank and service, “they must clearly indicate their retired or reserve status.”

Nothing on Rogers’ uniform indicates her retired status, nor does the scroll at the bottom of the screen disclose that she is retired. Her rank insignia appear on her uniform, and she identifies herself as ” Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers” without mentioning that she is retired.

Candidates and other public figures who are veterans may mention their current or previous military rank and service, and may include video clips or pictures of themselves in uniform, as long as they do not appear in uniform while talking in the ad, and as long as they identify that they are retired (if that is the case). They must also include a disclaimer that pictures or videos used do not constitute an endorsement by the Department of Defense. Rogers did include that mandatory disclaimer, but that still doesn’t authorize her to actually wear what appears to be a uniform while delivering a partisan or explicitly political message on camera.

In social media posts and on her campaign website, Rogers appears to pose with her Air Force jacket while wearing civilian clothes. She could try to say that she was wearing civilian clothes that couldn’t be seen in the ad, but if she wasn’t in uniform at all, she wouldn’t have had to include the disclaimer (which still doesn’t justify her actions).

By abusing her military rank and uniform, Rogers is helping fuel the call by some that senior military leaders always avoid partisan politics once they leave military service. That would be both a bad idea, and a violation of a long-standing American tradition of military leaders participating in politics and public policy once they have left uniformed service. But when military leaders like Rogers violate the trust of their oath by appearing in uniform to make partisan statements, they do threaten the civil-military relationship that respects the power of voters to elect civilian leaders who oversee the nation’s military.

Indiana Could Elect a Clinton to the US Senate

Evan Bayh is a walking ethics disaster of Clintonian proportions.

The former U.S. senator and governor has been the Democratic Party’s best hope to capture the open Senate seat in Indiana this year. After muscling out a former Democratic congressman who the party primary, Bayh immediately rocketed ahead of his Republican opponent, GOP Congressman Todd Young, in the polls.

According to FiveThirtyEight, and as outlined elsewhere on The Resurgent, Indiana is still a likely Democratic pick-up on election night even as polls show the race tightening, and Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton at the top of the ballot. A late breaking poll released Friday morning and sponsored by local television station WTHR showed Young beating Bayh, 46% to 41%, with 7% of voters undecided and the remaining claiming they will vote for the Libertarian Party candidate.

A series of ethics problems in Bayh’s background have come to light or resurfaced over the course of the campaign, bedeviling his ability to portray himself as the candid, honest and moderate Democrat Indiana voters elected in the past. A long-time ally of the Clintons, Bayh even endorsed Hillary Clinton in Indiana’s hotly contested 2008 Democratic presidential primary, his association with scandal-ridden political figures seems to be evolving into his own biography.

On Thursday, POLITICO broke the news that Bayh used taxpayer money to stay at hotels mere miles from his Indiana condo when he visited the state in 2009. Bayh represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate until January 2011.

“Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh used taxpayer money to stay at hotels in Indianapolis for 14 nights in 2009 despite owning a condominium there, charging more than $2,000 in travel and lodging expenses to his official account, according to his internal schedule and Senate disbursement records.”

Senate rules, POLITICO pointed out, prohibit lawmakers from using taxpayer money for lodging expenses when they are within 35 miles of their “duty station,” defined as their in-state residence during Congressional recess or adjournment and their Washington residence during Senate sessions.

Despite claiming residence at an Indianapolis condo, Bayh never stayed there in 2009, according to POLITICO, and according to an AP investigation he also never stayed there in 2010.

When spending taxpayer money on hotels in his “home” state, Bayh’s preference was for a “quiet room away from the elevators and ice machine” according to an official schedule quoted by POLITICO. Additionally, Bayh liked his room to have extra pillows.

In October, NPR spoke with people who live near Bayh’s condo and found that his neighbors never see him around. Bayh himself even forgot where he lives, “Bayh misstated the address of his Indianapolis condo on local TV news about a month into his contest,” NPR reported.

Another investigation into Bayh’s background found him spending the better part of his final year in office using his Senate connections to find a lucrative private sector job for his post-Senate career. While accepting undisclosed financial favors from one special interest, Bayh also cast votes that directly related to the interests of some of the potential employers he spoke with during that year. Bayh even used taxpayer money to fund some of his job-hunting/networking excursions during his final months in office.

If Bayh wins his race on Tuesday, Indiana voters will be represented in the U.S. Senate by someone whose ethics are eerily similar to those of Hillary Clinton.

Evan McMullin Should Not Be Architect of New GOP

Independent presidential protest candidate Evan McMullin is a decent man and an American patriot, but under no circumstances should his view of conservatism form the basis of a rebuilt Republican Party post-2016, or form the bedrock of a new conservative moment.

There is no question that at time when both major political parties have nominated fundamentally distasteful and deeply flawed candidates, individuals whose basic human decency is open to question based on their previous records and remarks, Evan McMullin is a respectable human being. But while respectable and decent are now – remarkably – enough to fuel a nationwide protest campaign, they are not all that is required to rebuild a GOP that will emerge deeply divided on November 9th.

From social issues to foreign policy issues, and even touching an important fiscal issue, McMullin’s articulation – or lack of articulation – betrays good intentions that are not backed up by concrete principles or policy proposals.

Maggie Gallagher, a social conservative activist, expressed skepticism of McMullin back in August in a piece for National Review Online. Citing his general silence on domestic policy issues, she asserted that the former CIA officer turned Capitol Hill staffer is “not the savior conservatives are hoping for.”

On the life issue, Gallagher pointed out that McMullin’s website was then – and still is – pretty sparse on details even though the candidate declares that, “Our respect for life is the most important measure of our humanity.” Well put, and certainly very much in line with a conservatism that respects the equality of human beings and a belief that government should protect human life. But the only policy specific McMullin embraces is no taxpayer funding for abortion. “A culture that subsidizes abortion on demand runs counter to the fundamental American belief in the potential of every person – it undermines the dignity of mother and child alike,” his platform reads.

A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is already the law of the land. What is still allowed – and what McMullin is silent about – is the use of taxpayer money to fund the non-abortion operations of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. That’s a recent debate that McMullin, if interested in proving his pro-life credentials as a serious candidate, could have easily weighed in on. Instead, he has remained silent on his website and a search for news clips and public statements turned up nothing.

Gallagher suggests that McMullin may be seeking “to be a unifier through vagueness, as many consultants would no doubt advise.”

In contrast to his one paragraph statement about the importance of human life, McMullin spends 19 paragraphs outlining his immigration reform plan. The plan is chock full of policy principles that McMullin wants to see implemented after the border is secured. It is a realistic and thoughtful plan – proof that even as a last minute candidate, McMullin can put meat on broad position statements provided the issue is one he cares about.

On another social issue – the hot button topic of the definition of marriage, and who defines it – McMullin has adopted a passive tone. Professing that he personally believes marriage is a union between a man and a woman, McMullin told Bloomberg that he “respect[s] the decision of the [Supreme] Court and I think it is time to move on.” Pressed if perhaps the issue should be resolved at the state level, a position similar to those embraced by Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Ted Cruz, McMullin again emphasized the matter is settled law: “Ideally, yes, but it has been handled by the Supreme Court, and that’s where it is.”

When queried about whether or not he favors appointing Supreme Court justices who might take the view that Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that forced all states and the federal government to accept same-sex marriage, was decided incorrectly, the nascent candidate said he would not favor those types of judicial nominees.

Sen. Marco Rubio famously said of Obergefell that, “I don’t believe any case law is settled law. Any future Supreme Court can change it.” Promising to nominate strict constructionist judges, the then-presidential candidate told NBC News, “I don’t think the current Constitution gives the federal government the power to regulate marriage. That belongs at the state and local level.”

Rubio wasn’t afraid to use some political capital to defend his position. According to another NBC News story, “Rubio seems unconcerned his positions on social issues might cost him younger voters.” He also pushed back against the argument that supporting the traditional definition of marriage makes someone a bigot.

For his part, Sen. Ted Cruz promoted the idea of an amendment to the Constitution that clarifies that the definition of marriage is settled at the state – not federal – level.

Beyond just social issues, however, McMullin has been oddly unwilling to say whether or not he agrees with a widely embraced conservative reform proposal for Social Security. Facing financial unsustainability, the entitlement program is certainly not poised to live up to its promise to future generations of retirees. One plan to make it more sustainable is to allow younger workers to take a small portion of their current Social Security and Medicare payroll deduction and put it in a personal savings account that could be invested in traditional retirement securities. It’s a plan championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and it’s modeled on federal employee retirement plans.

“I support most conservative solutions to entitlement reforms,” McMullin said when specifically asked about the idea of allowing younger workers to take Social Security contributions – taxes – and invest some of them into personal accounts. Pressed for a more clear-cut answer, he refused to say whether he agreed with the Ryan plan.

In the area of foreign policy, McMullin has sounded extraordinarily hawkish notes. Having spent a decade of his life helping chase down terrorists and bad guys who threaten America’s security, there’s no question that McMullin has personal credibility on the topic. But experience doesn’t always begat wisdom even as it reveals impeccable intentions.

Speaking at TEDx event earlier this year, and before he entered the presidential race, McMullin argued that genocide is a good enough justification for American and Western economic and military intervention in foreign affairs. Complaining about Western “governments’ lack of political will” to stop genocide, he proposed a fairly sweeping interventionist outlook where the public pressures democratic governments to do more to halt internal violence in troubled nations.

“Western countries and governments are some of the most empowered to stop atrocities given their economic and military strength. But they also happen to be democracies. And in these systems political will begins and ends with the people on all issues,” he explained.

But in making the case against genocide (an easy case), McMullin didn’t explain why it was moral or appropriate for democracies to always intervene in cases of genocide even if none of their strategic or security interests were at stake. If evil is justification for military action, endless conflict may be had at any point. Expending American blood and treasure to right the world’s wrongs without any other justification will not only be a tough sell to the American people, it will be a questionable use of national resources.

In an editorial for Foreign Policy magazine, McMullin did appear to want some unspecified limits placed on the employment of military force. Saying he disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, he went on to outline why the U.S. should do more in Syria, even though the Obama Administration’s policy there has been one of eventual increase of military commitment.

Then he claimed this: “As president, instead of being constrained by rigid doctrines that call for either constant action or total passivity, I would carefully evaluate the situation at hand and determine how best to respond.”

In calling for both more strident military, economic and diplomatic action, while also promising to eschew “rigid doctrines” in foreign affairs, McMullin sounds remarkably like candidate Barack Obama and his foreign policy advisors in 2008.

If the new conservative movement is to be erected on a foundation that avoids social issues – particularly the pro-life issue – refuses to offer concrete fiscal solutions to looming entitlement problems, and promotes a moralistic but confused foreign policy, it is not a movement destined to seriously shape American politics. It will cede much to those who do not constrain their view of government to the parameters of the Constitution.

Feingold’s Daughter Connected To Wisconsin Campaign Dark Money

An organization that is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D) campaign to recapture his old Senate seat in Wisconsin used its sister entity to employ Feingold’s daughter as recently as this past May. The Humane Society Legislative Fund, not to be confused with local humane societies, is airing a television ad urging voters to cast their ballot for Feingold when they vote in one of the most contentious and closely watched Senate races in the country. As it turns out, Feingold’s daughter spent years working for the Humane Society of the United States, the parent organization of HSLF.

According to filings posted to the Federal Election Commission’s website, the Humane Society Legislative Fund is spending a stunning $399,329.18 on a television ad buy supporting Feingold. The ad began running in Wisconsin on Tuesday according to the filings. The HSLF is located in Washington, D.C.

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Feingold’s daughter, Jessica Feingold Lieberson, currently lives in the D.C. metro area and from December 2011 until May of this year, she worked as the Humane Society of the United States’ federal legislative specialist. In that job she was responsible for, “Build[ing] and maintain[ing] coalitions with other nonprofit organizations, industry groups, local and federal law enforcement officials, and religious leaders.”

From 2009 to 2011, Feingold Lieberson was the director of grassroots campaigns for HSUS. According to her LinkedIn profile she, “Organized an array of lobby days, briefings, and press conferences to support organization’s legislative goals.” From 2007 through 2009, she worked as a grassroots coordinator at HSUS.

The Humane Society of the United States does not itself engage in political activity, but the Humane Society Legislative Fund is its political arm. A press release announcing the Wisconsin ad buy explained, “The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States.”

According to a review of independent expenditure filings, Feingold is the only U.S. Senate candidate directly benefiting from HSLF’s independent – so-called “dark money” – campaign efforts right now.

In August, Feingold Lieberson wrote a fundraising solicitation for her dad’s campaign. “[O]ne of the best things about my dad is that he cares so passionately about equality for all women,” she wrote. “I’m so proud of my dad. I can’t wait until he’s back in the Senate standing up for all of us.” The note concluded with a link to an ActBlue fundraising page for Feingold’s Senate campaign.

Lieberson’s time working on federal relations for the Humane Society did overlap with her father’s time in the Senate.

When the HSLF ad starting airing, the Wisconsin Humane Society received numerous calls from viewers unhappy the organization was picking sides in the Senate race. The WHS clarified that it has nothing to do with the advertisement.

Wisconsin: Dem Feingold Broke Promise To Limit Outside Funds In Senate Bid to Unseat Johnson

The race for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin could well determine which party controls the Senate majority next January. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) is facing voters for the first time since he was elected in the 2010 “Tea Party” wave that swept fellow Republican Gov. Scott Walker to office in Wisconsin. Democrats have placed their hopes to capture the seat on Sen. Russ Feingold (D), who served in the Senate for three terms before losing to Johnson.

Republicans have traditionally struggled to hold or win Senate seats in Wisconsin during presidential elections. In fact, the last time a Republican won a Wisconsin Senate race during a presidential year was 1980, when Bob Kasten (R) denied Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D) a fourth term.

Earlier in the cycle the outlook was pretty bleak for Johnson, who had managed to maintain a fairly low profile across the state even while he frequently made waves as a reform minded conservative in Washington. When polled, significant pluralities of Wisconsin voters over the past few years have struggled to even say they have an opinion of Johnson. Two other Wisconsin Republicans, Walker and now-House Speaker Paul Ryan have consumed much of the local GOP’s attention and the media’s coverage with high profile state political battles and the 2012 pick of Ryan as the GOP VP nominee as well as his more recent elevation to the Speaker’s chair.

Feingold used the downtime to give Wisconsin voters a break, disappearing – literally – by taking a U.S. State Department post that sent him to Africa, and taking up teaching at California’s Stanford University Law School. He also taught a class at Milwaukee’s Marquette University Law School, taught some at a small college in Appleton, Wisconsin and started a political action committee, Progressives United, that kept his old campaign machine employed.

Conventional wisdom has been upended in the final couple of months, however, as polls consistently show Johnson and Feingold within the margin of error. Republicans and aligned groups showed some signs of potentially quitting the race, but recent polling as brought them back to the game. While most polls show Johnson down slightly, but well within the margin, at least one recent poll put him 5 points ahead of Feingold. The one poll that has given Feingold a double-digit lead is routinely discarded by Wisconsin politicos because it is notoriously unreliable.

Like Evan Bayh in Indiana, Feingold offered Democrats a known quantity headed into an election year that should have been a GOP sweep. Both are former senators, both have proven fundraising ability and both enjoyed generally good rapport with their state’s voters prior to leaving office. But both have extraordinary amounts of baggage.

Feingold’s declaration that he was the deciding vote in passing ObamaCare isn’t exactly a net positive for him right now. Johnson’s victory in 2010 came largely because of voter frustration with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. A new spate of news stories showing double-digit health insurance premium hikes in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and the departure of several large insurance companies from the marketplace are reminding voters of why they fired Feingold. No attempt to whitewash the new information will erase the fact that consumers are paying more for health insurance now than before ObamaCare, and that their health care plans have been substantially altered, if not outright cancelled.

In the race to raise cash, Feingold has beaten Johnson, $11 million to $7.9 million according to a survey of FEC reports by the left-wing Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG). But the group also found that Feingold has raised 75.65% of his funds from outside of Wisconsin; Johnson has raised half of his cash in Wisconsin. Feingold promised in 1992, when he first ran for Senate, that he would raise the majority of his campaign funds from inside of Wisconsin. The fact that he has raised fewer dollars in Wisconsin than Johnson, both in real terms and percentage terms, shows his comeback is fueled more by national Democrats than by Wisconsin voters looking to re-elect a beloved favored son.

Here’s the WISPIRG fundraising comparison:

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Ironically, one of Feingold’s pet issues while in the Senate was campaign finance reform, and the infamous McCain-Feingold campaign finance law bears his name and fingerprints. While fighting for that bill, Feingold was fined thousands of dollars by the FEC for failing to report over $50,000 in campaign contributions during his 1998 re-election effort.

Evidence that the race is tighter than the Feingold campaign would like it to be came on Tuesday, when Feingold blasted Johnson for supporting a faith-based program that helps unemployed adults in Milwaukee’s inner city transition into the workforce. “It’s not enough to pick people up in a van and send them away a couple hours and have them come back exhausted at the end of the day,” Feingold said of the program.

It was an unforced error.

Another story that could dog Feingold is a new revelation that he charged high school students, a youth camp and a library all in Wisconsin over a thousand dollars each to deliver brief remarks. The speaking fees, which were paid after Feingold left the Senate, came to light when the Washington Free Beacon found Feingold’s ethics disclosure forms from his time at the State Department. The publication pointed out that Feingold was very clear in 2002 about what he wanted from a post-Senate life: “I don’t know what I’d do, but there are so many books to read, so many golf courses to play, so many dollars to make so I can pay the bills.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has gone all-in backing Feingold, appearing at events in Wisconsin and regularly sending out e-mails via Feingold’s campaign e-mail list.

Just who wins the Wisconsin Senate race will likely depend in part on how well Donald Trump does in the state. Trump has polled well in northern and northeastern Wisconsin, places Johnson needs to do well in, but his numbers are dismal in heavily GOP southeast Wisconsin. But voters there, informed by conservative talk radio, are likely to turn out for Johnson regardless of their distaste for Trump. Johnson will likely outperform Trump, but if Trump loses in a landslide, that might not be enough. With 13 days to go, the Wisconsin Senate race is still winnable by either side.

Clinton Advisors, Supporters Compared Planned Parenthood Hearings to Benghazi Hearings

The day Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards testified before Congress in the aftermath of videos showing Planned Parenthood affiliated physicians and managers bargaining over the price of fetal body parts harvested from unborn babies, a top Clinton supporter compared the hearing to Hillary Clinton’s performance in hearings about the Benghazi debacle. Gina Glantz, formerly of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and now of Gender Avenger, emailed several top Clinton aides to ask that Clinton call Richards in the hours after the hearing and drew the comparison between the Benghazi hearings and the Planned Parenthood hearing.

“Writing to you all hoping someone will suggest that Hillary call Cecile Richards tonight,” Glantz put in the subject line of an e-mail sent to Clinton advisors Katie Dowd, Joel Benenson, Tamera Luzzatto, Minyon Moore and Mandy Grunwald on September 29, 2015 just hours after Richards finished her testimony on Capitol Hill. Praising Richards for standing “up so well” under the “grilling,” Glantz said a phone call from Clinton to Richards would be good politics.

“Good for HRC politics and Cecile. Now Cecile knows what it feels like to be Hillary in front of the Benghazi committee. Anyway would be a great tweet from HRC that she spoke to Cecile.”

The e-mail came to light as part of the massive WikiLeaks document dump.

Mandy Grunwald, senior advisor to Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, replied to Glantz, “Thanks Gina. We always want your advice. I will pass on to those who might make this happen.”

Not one person on the chain pushed back on Glantz’s assertion that the Planned Parenthood hearing was the equivalent of the Benghazi hearing. The only thing similar between the hearings, besides a high profile female subject appearing before Congress, is the fact that both events involved Americans dying while the government refuses to prevent their death.

On September 11, 2012, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by radical Islamic terrorists. In the ferocious fighting that followed, four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens, died. In the aftermath of the affair then-Secretary of State Clinton downplayed her role in her agency’s failure to provide greater security to the Benghazi mission even though such security was requested multiple times in advance of the attack.

At a Senate hearing about the Benghazi attack, Clinton pushed back on a question from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), asking “What difference – at this point – does it make?” Johnson had asked about the source of the attack, which some Obama Administration officials had pinned on a mostly unknown YouTube video.

Three years later, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood visited Capitol Hill to testify at a hearing about federal funds that go to her organization, which is the largest abortion provider in the country. Federal funds may not be spent on abortions, but video footage released in the summer of 2015 found Planned Parenthood officials and physicians negotiating the sale of aborted fetal body parts collected from abortions, something that violates federal law.

That high profile advisors so close to Clinton were comfortable with – or at least silent toward – a former Planned Parenthood Action Fund (the political arm of the abortion provider) leader comparing Benghazi to abortions that result in the sale of fetal tissue is astonishing.

Myth: Prevailing Wage is a Veterans Issue

In a clever ploy, anti-free market and pro-labor union organizations are fighting back against efforts to repeal so-called prevailing wage laws by claiming that such a repeal would be a direct attack on veterans. At a time when veterans enjoy wide public respect in the aftermath of intense conflict in two wars, the argument packs a hefty political punch. But while the rhetoric is powerful, the evidence behind it is pretty thin, and the claim is easily debunked when the prevailing wage discussion is put in perspective.

The prevailing wage is a mandated compensation rate that contractors on certain public works projects must pay workers on those jobs. Not all states have prevailing wage laws, but many do, and the Davis-Bacon law requires governments at all levels to pay the federally calculated prevailing wage on projects over a certain size that utilize federal dollars.

Numerous states with conservative governors have considered partially or completely eliminating their state prevailing wage law requirements as a means of reducing regulation on the private sector, eliminating bureaucracy and saving taxpayers money on public construction projects. Wisconsin, for example, will have a partial repeal of its prevailing wage go into effect in January 2017.

But as the debate over the necessity or effectiveness of prevailing wage has grown, advocates of the status quo have sought to advance a series of questionable assertions about its usefulness. A secretive lobbying group ran television ads in Wisconsin in 2015 claiming a repeal of prevailing wage would flood jobsites with illegal immigrants. Calling a repeal an “illegal worker loophole,” the organization, which failed to disclose its IRS non-profit filings, was ultimately unsuccessful in its efforts.

In a May 2015 editorial for the Huffington Post, Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org astonishingly asserted that, “A repeal of state prevailing wage laws would be an economic disaster for veterans. Soltz also claimed that:

“Missing entirely from the debate over these laws is who they would impact the most. Military veterans, for example, pursue employment in the construction trades at substantially higher rates than non-veterans.”

But that’s a mischaracterization of the findings of an economic study commissioned by VoteVets.org to examine the relationship between veterans who work in construction and prevailing wage laws. A press release announcing the study declares that repealing or reforming, “prevailing wage at the state level will disproportionally hurt the hundreds of thousands post-9/11 veterans who are returning to the workforce.” In that same release VoteVets.org describes itself as “the largest progressive group of veterans in America.”

The study was conducted by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, whose name bears a close resemblance to the labor union-funded Economic Policy Institute which conducts pro-union economic research, although IEPI does not appear to receiving funding from EPI according to available IRS documents. The gist of the report is that because veterans work in the construction industry, and because construction workers are the workforce impacted by prevailing wage laws, any changes to such laws are a veterans issue.

Even while acknowledging that only a small minority of construction workers are veterans (a reasonable fact given that at any given time the U.S. military makes up about 1% of the total population today), the study goes to great lengths to argue that veterans as a population group are more likely to be in construction trades than non-veterans.

The justification for this claim is that in 39 states veterans make up a larger share of the construction workforce than they do of the total workforce. For example, in Wisconsin veterans make up 5.48% of the total workforce, but they make up 8.3% of the construction trades. In Illinois, veterans are 4.51% of the total labor force but they are 7.39% of the construction workforce.

But this calculation is hardly an accurate way to depict veteran participation in a particular industry because it makes it appear as if more veterans work in construction than in other industries. In addition to being a small minority of construction workers, veterans are a small percentage of the total workforce.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, younger veterans (post-1991) are less likely to work in construction than other industries. Referred to as “Gulf War” veterans (the first Gulf War was in 1991, the War on Terror is classified as the “Second Gulf War” in this Census data) they are more likely to be found working in management or protective service sectors than on a job site. A Census Bureau report on veteran employment describes it this way:

“Gulf War-era men were less likely to work in construction occupations and sales and related occupations, compared with nonveteran men.”

That statement, based on census data, blows a gigantic hole in the IEPI study which builds its entire premise that prevailing wage is a veterans issue off of the claim that veterans are more likely to be working construction than nonveterans.

Another glaring flaw of the study is that it fails to put into context the number of construction jobs that fall under prevailing wage requirements. Reading the study it would appear that the majority of construction jobs are bound by prevailing wage requirements, which in turn (according to the authors) substantially impact the incomes of veterans employed in the trades. But the reality is only a minority of total construction jobs fall under prevailing wage provisions.

In Wisconsin, for example, before the partial repeal of prevailing wage was enacted only about 20% of all construction jobs contained prevailing wage restrictions according to a pro-prevailing wage estimate. That means while 91.7% of construction workers in Wisconsin have never served in the military, 80% of all Wisconsin construction jobs never qualified for prevailing wage regulations.

Nevertheless, the IEPI study summary claims, “Prevailing wage improves economic outcomes for veteran workers. Prevailing wage standards make construction employment more attractive for veterans.” But the actual study explicitly states: “Prevailing wage laws affect all workers the same regardless of race, gender, veteran status, or any other factor.”

So either prevailing wage is a veterans issue, as the first statement asserts, or it is not a veterans issue because it applies to all workers equally regardless of veteran status, a noteworthy point given that the vast majority of construction workers are not veterans. The conflicting statements reveal the lengths to which pro-labor union groups will go to advocate for higher taxpayer costs on construction projects.

In addition to failing to point out how few total construction projects are bound by the prevailing wage requirement, the IEPI study authors also overlook any mention of compliance costs with prevailing wage. For small business owners and entrepreneurs of the sort often found in the construction trades, the complexities of complying with prevailing wage mandates can serve as a disincentive to bid on government jobs.

Finally, the study authors make the eyebrow-raising claim that military service is closely related to prevailing wage-regulated construction projects. “[B]oth military and civilian construction careers include elements of public service, from defending the country to developing the public infrastructure on which Americans rely,” they write. Certainly there is a degree of job satisfaction in both career fields, but prevailing wage or no prevailing wage, most job sites in the United States don’t involve getting shot at, nor do superiors have the freedom to push employees to work far more than 8 hours a day.

Not all veterans organizations agree with VoteVets.org, on this issue. Darin Selnick, a senior advisor to Concerned Veterans for America, is skeptical of prevailing wage laws and their impact on anyone – including veterans. “The transition from military to civilian life is often difficult for veterans, and finding gainful employment is an important first step,” Selnick said. “Prevailing wage laws disproportionately hurt entry-level job growth – the exact kind of jobs veterans need in that critical timeframe when they’ve just finished serving. Veterans fought for economic freedom and American prosperity abroad and they deserve it when they get home.”

Labor unions and aligned think-tanks and political groups are likely to continue to use the guise of veterans issues as a cudgel to beat free market policymakers over the head for daring to suggest reforms that save taxpayer money. But that doesn’t mean they are right; veterans are a significant part of the workforce, but that doesn’t mean increased government spending on labor costs for public works are somehow a veterans issue in the same way that, say, the healthcare shortcomings of the Veterans Administration are a veterans issue.

Originally posted to MediaTrackers.org.

Final Presidential Debate Needs To Discuss Afghanistan, Military Readiness

On Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, respectively, will debate each other for the final time before the November election. With so much of this political cycle focusing on he-said, she-said accusations, outrageous comments, previous failings, personality quirks and a clash of deeply unpopular candidates loathed by important elements in their own parties, it would be refreshing and helpful if Clinton and Trump, assisted by a thoughtful moderator, focused on issues.

Two issues that desperately need more attention this election cycle are the future of the United State’s role in Afghanistan and the future of American military readiness. Donald Trump’s proclamation that he will “build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now. It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us,” and Clinton’s assertion that we “cannot lose our military edge, and that means giving the Pentagon the stable, predictable funding it needs to make smart investments” both fall short of specifics.

While both candidates appear to agree, at least on a big picture level, that the nation needs to increase military spending, what they are not talking about is readiness, which involves funding, but doesn’t necessarily relate to the acquisition of new weapons systems or the addition of new military personnel. Readiness is a lot about maintaining the current force and its capabilities and, where necessary, growing it to make sure force size is aligned with national security priorities.

Such a conversation goes well beyond throwing money at the military so it can be “so strong” and it involves a conversation about what exactly “smart investments” are.

Additionally, a topic that has general escape scrutiny this election cycle is the future of Afghanistan. The threat of ISIS, immediate and dangerous, has grabbed its share of headlines for good reason, but the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan threatens to undo much of the hard work of U.S. forces who have been fighting there for the last 15 years.

According to a Washington Post story over the weekend, one U.S. advisor in Afghanistan described the U.S. presence there, with its restrictive rules of engagement and extremely limited personnel, saying, “We’re like a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.” A national security expert told the paper that the U.S. strategy is “just enough to lose slowly,” hardly a winning plan.

One person who is talking about readiness and Afghanistan is Jim Banks, an Indiana state senator and Congressional candidate who appears poised to win in Indiana’s 3rd District. Banks, a Navy Reserve officer with a recent deployment to Afghanistan, wrote in a recent editorial that Congress needs to work on providing regular funding for the military so readiness can become less dependent on short term political fights and more focused on long-term needs.

“The current model of Congress passing short-term spending bills at the eleventh hour means the Department of Defense often is unable to effectively compete in pricing for contracts or suppliers, which wastes tax dollars,” Banks wrote.

He also pointed out that military readiness is something the next Congress will need to take seriously:

“In the midst of the most complex threat environment our country has faced in over a generation, today the U.S. military is in a readiness crisis that threatens our ability to confront and deter adversaries and address the challenges we face. Our armed forces are smaller, less prepared and less equipped than at any point over the last several decades.”

If these topics merit attention from a Congressional candidate, let’s hope they receive attention at the final presidential debate.