UPDATED, 9:38 a.m., with more reaction from the Minnick campaign.
Rep. Walt Minnick's latest TV ad is sparking a new round of controversy.
Republican challenger Raul Labrador fired back this morning with a scathing news release attacking Minnick's messenger: retired U.S. Marshal Mike Johnson.
The release centers on Johnson's role as marshal during the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff, and quotes two retired deputy marshals who question Johnson's judgment and ethics.
"(Johnson) became one of the biggest embarrassments to this agency as well as to the other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. He exercised questionable, if not poor judgment during Ruby Ridge as well as in other events during his tour," said retired deputy marshal Jack Cluff.
"If Mike Johnson told me it was raining outside, I would go check before finding my umbrella. Any person who would use Mike Johnson as a spokesman on behalf of him or her is either totally misinformed, unethical or both," said retired deputy marshal Dave Bradley.
Three people died in the Ruby Ridge standoff — Randy Weaver's wife, Vicki, and son, Samuel, and deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan, It's still a story that still resonates and stirs emotions, 18 years after the fact, as this recent article illustrates.
But, as Labrador notes, he was a law student when the standoff occurred. Will the specter of this story offset the impact of one more ad blasting Labrador's work in immigration law?
That's one question surrounding this race, 25 days from election day.
Click here for my previous blog post on the Minnick ad, and a link to the video.
And here, in full, is Labrador's take on the ad. It's lengthy, but worth a look:
Labrador news release:
Republican Congressional Candidate Raul Labrador today thanked two retired United States Marshal Service personnel for publicly speaking out against former U.S. Marshal Mike Johnson who acts as spokesman in the latest negative, false advertising launched by Walt Minnick.
The Labrador for Idaho campaign was contacted by email late Monday evening by retired Deputy Marshal Jack Cluff, who saw the television ad in Moscow and was moved to act. He put the campaign in touch with a Weaver Trial colleague in Oklahoma. Each man served the USMS for more than 20 years. The Minnick ad features former U.S. Marshal Mike Johnson questioning Labrador’s "troubling history." Mike Johnson, who was the U.S. Marshal during the Ruby Ridge siege, was a political appointee while both other marshals were career law enforcement officers.
Of the support and the attack, Raul Labrador said, “I must offer my heartfelt thanks to these two retired deputy U.S. Marshals for coming to my defense. How a man with a history that includes a leadership position at Ruby Ridge and whose co-workers have nothing but contempt for him can question my integrity is both breathtaking and beneath contempt.”
Labrador continued, “Mike Johnson does not know me. I was at law school when Mike Johnson was in his position at Ruby Ridge. This is another desperation tactic of Walt Minnick as he knows we have all the momentum in this race. His internal polls must be telling him I am going to win and he’s scared.”
Retired Deputy Marshal Cluff, a native of Idaho said: “During Mike Johnson's four-plus years as a U.S. Marshal for the District of Idaho, he became one of the biggest embarrassments to this agency as well as to the other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.”
Cluff added, “All you have to do is ask any Northern Idaho Law enforcement agent, including myself, that worked the Ruby Ridge detail or members of the retired U.S. Marshals Service Association that may have served under him.”
Statement from deputy U.S. Marshal Jack Cluff, retired
As a deputy marshal I served in the district of Western Washington area as well as the district of Idaho. I was deputy marshal in northern Idaho and was responsible for the 10 northern counties of Idaho. I was deployed at Ruby Ridge, a disaster that should never have occurred. It was the most ill-conceived and executed debacle in the history of Idaho law enforcement.
During Mike Johnson's four-plus years as a U.S. Marshal for the District of Idaho, he became one of the biggest embarrassments to this agency as well as to the other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. He exercised questionable, if not poor judgment during Ruby Ridge as well as in other events during his tour. All you have to do is ask any Northern Idaho law enforcement agent, including myself, that worked the Ruby Ridge detail or members of the retired U.S. Marshal’s Service Association that may have served under him.
I feel his attack on Raul Labrador’s background and history, a man he has had no professional relationship with as a U.S. Marshal, to be both hypocritical and deceitful. It shows he is a man of questionable ethics and as well as poor judgment.
Finally, I find Walt Minnick’s use of Mike Johnson in his political ad to be an affront to myself and to the U.S. Marshal Service. I question the character of Walt Minnick for resorting to such a cheap shot against his opponent, using the good name of the U.S. Marshal’s for his political gain. This is particularly the case as Mike Johnson had absolutely no role to play in the control of illegal immigration when he was a federal marshal. To me and many others, he was a failure to law enforcement. Walt Minnick has made a big mistake by using former U.S. Marshal Mike Johnson as one of his campaign supporters.
Jack Cluff is a native of Meridian, Idaho and now lives in Moscow. He served in the USMS for 20 years, from 1979 to 1999. Before that he served 7 years on active duty in the United States Army and served a tour of combat in Vietnam as a helicopter crew chief and gunner.
Statement from deputy U.S. Marshal Dave Bradley, retired
I was deployed to Idaho for the duration of the Randy Weaver trial in Boise as an Inspector of the Judicial Security Division of the USMS.
My personal opinion of Mike Johnson could not be lower and is in fact the lowest of any co-worker during my service to the federal government. Mike Johnson was a man without integrity, without the intelligence required to perform the duties he was required to perform and was an extreme example of the worst kind of political appointment which was then possible in the USMS. I have no respect for him.
I would greatly caution any person to think twice about placing any faith in the words of Mike Johnson. If Mike Johnson told me it was raining outside, I would go check before finding my umbrella. Any person who would use Mike Johnson as a spokesman on behalf of him or her is either totally misinformed, unethical or both.
Dave Bradley lives in Oklahoma. He served in the USMS for 24 years, from 1974-1997. During that time he served the USMS in three districts as well as nine years in headquarters.
From the Minnick camp, here are two quotes from longtime law enforcement officers who come to Johnson's side:
"I have known Mike Johnson for close to 30 years and worked with him in his capacity as a U.S. Marshal," said Bob Barowsky, former sheriff of Payette County. "As a former sheriff, I can say that Mike always acted with highest levels of integrity. He deserves the respect that comes with serving his community for so long, as does Congressman Walt Minnick, whose firm stance for public safety and Idaho values have earned my full support."
"Mike Johnson is someone I know well and respect. He and Walt Minnick should be heralded, not attacked," said Lennie Elfering, a former police chief who served in Parma and New Plymouth. "Mr. Labrador's attempt at character assassination is deplorable. Mike Johnson served his community in many capacities, not the least of which was as a law enforcement officer. Raul Labrador seems willing to step on anyone to get to Congress, even those who have put their lives on the line to protect the same community he wants to represent. As a former police officer, I applaud Mike for speaking the truth."
The Minnick campaign also cites a KTVB story on his immigration ad.
In it, former Marshals Service director Henry Hudson refutes an assertion that Cluff was asked to baby-sit Johnson. In the same story, Labrador spokesman Phil Hardy says the campaign wrote Cluff's statement — and Cluff approved it.