The Marine Corps says 1st District GOP congressional candidate Vaughn Ward is permitted to release the full text of a letter from his commander regarding his misuse of the Marine uniform in campaign advertising.
But despite vowing to release the letter if his commander gave permission, Ward has yet to do so.
A statement from Marine Headquarters on Friday contradicts what Ward told a statewide TV audience during a debate Tuesday — that his command ordered him not to release the entire letter.
“The Marine Corps has not ordered Vaughn Ward to not release the full document,” said Maj. Carl Redding in an e-mail. “Ultimately, it is his decision to make.”
Redding is head of media operations at Marine Corps Headquarters. He said he was speaking on behalf of Brig. Gen. Richard Simcock, Ward’s commanding officer in the Office of Legislative Affairs in Washington, D.C. Ward is a Marine reservist.
The Ward campaign did not reply to repeated requests Friday for a full copy of the letter or comment on Redding’s statement. Ward said during Tuesday’s debate, “I’ll release it,” if authorized by Simcock.
A copy of the one-page letter was released to the Statesman April 27 after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Seven lines were blacked out to protect Ward’s privacy. On April 30, the chief of the FOIA section at Marine Headquarters, Teresa Ross, wrote the Statesman in an e-mail that Ward could release the entire letter: “The subject letter was addressed to Major Ward. If he wishes to release it to the public, he has all rights to do so.”
Ward was read Ross’s statement during Tuesday’s debate, but again declined to release the whole letter. Ward said the following:
“My answer to that is FOIA doesn't speak for my chain of command. My chain of command is Brig. Gen. Simcock. And in my chain of command I asked them that very question. They said no. FOIA doesn't drive what my commanding officer does. You want to take this up to my commanding officer, he says yes, I'll release it. But right now it's still my chain of command's. And Brig. Gen. Simcock said no. And that was what I was told, and so that's what I do. But, again, FOIA doesn't have anything to do with what Brig. Gen. Simcock does or doesn't do.”
Redding said Simcock had authorized Ward to release the full letter. “Brig. Gen. Simcock is a part of HQMC so I am speaking on his behalf,” Redding wrote, using the acronym for Headquarters Marine Corps.
In the April 7 letter, Simcock told Ward that he violated two provisions in the Department of Defense directive covering political activity by members of the military. Ward ran an ad on the Drudge Report which depicted him in camouflage and body armor. The ad, Simcock wrote, lacked the required disclaimer that says the use of his rank, job titles and photographs in uniform do not imply endorsement by the Pentagon or Marines.
Simcock also wrote that the ad violated the provision that an image of a uniformed serviceman must not be the ad’s “primary graphic representation.”
Ward also mailed postcards without a disclaimer. To correct his error, Ward affixed stickers with a disclaimer in 4-point type. His latest version of the postcard was reprinted to include the disclaimer in 6-point type at the bottom of the card.