The super PAC backing Joe Sestak — the front-runner in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary — appears willing to do what Sestak’s campaign won’t: follow federal ethics law.
Last week, the Accountable Leadership PAC uploaded a digital spot touting Sestak’s military rank. Sestak is a retired three-star Navy Admiral, a fact also prominently displayed in his own campaign materials. But the super PAC’s ad adheres to Department of Defense ethics law, which requires a disclosure of retired or reserve status from those running for office. Sestak’s campaign has not done the same.
Sestak has come under fire for using his military title in campaign materials without the required disclosure, which is meant to eliminate the implication of an official endorsement from the U.S. military. Last month, Salena Zito reported that a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Matthew Whitaker, had filed an ethics complaint against Sestak with the Department of Defense, following up on the complaint he had filed one year before, to which the DOD never responded.
Whitaker’s latest complaint came just one week after Sestak had defended using his military title during an event at the Pennsylvania Press Club. At that event, he was asked, “Why do you maintain it’s appropriate to regularly use your military rank in your political campaign when military protocol, the Defense Department, the Hatch Act, and general good bearing and decorum recommend against it?”
“I totally disagree with that,” he responded. “Join the military. That’s how we do it. We’ve earned it.”
Nevertheless, Accountable Leadership continues its use of the disclosure, as do other retired military officers vying for Senate seats. In Colorado, for example, Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser, a Major in the United States Air Force Reserve, includes the disclosure on the home page of his campaign site and in campaign materials.
The Sestak campaign did not return requests for comment.