Cybersecdn- Candidates for office from all parties have long used their ties to the U.S. military as a way to get votes. During election years, it’s common for candidates who are currently or have been in the military to use their rank, job title, and pictures or videos of themselves in uniform in TV ads, social media posts, and campaign flyers.
J.R. Majewski is an Ohio Republican backed by Donald Trump whose military record in Afghanistan was questioned during his failed 2022 congressional race. He is now trying to get a second Republican primary win in March so he can finally get rid of Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
Political ads that Majewski paid for, on the other hand, use pictures of the candidate in his U.S. Air Force outfit without making it clear that these are not endorsements by the military.
The Pentagon has rules about how campaigns can use pictures of politicians in uniform in their ads. The U.S. military is seen as apolitical, and the Pentagon’s rules for candidates are meant to let voters know that neither the Defense Department nor any one service branch supports a candidate. This is similar to the warning signs on smoking ads.
When The Messenger looked at Majewski’s social media ads, they seemed to show that his campaign was breaking a Pentagon rule that says candidates must include a disclaimer whenever they use photos of themselves in uniform. The Associated Press got records that show Majewski was in the U.S. Air Force from August 1999 to August 2003.
Erica Knight, a Majewski spokeswoman, told The Messenger, “It was a mistake, and it has been fixed.”
There is a rule from the Defense Department that says any ads featuring current or former service members in uniform “must be accompanied by a prominent and displayed disclaimer that neither the military information nor photographs imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or their particular Military Department.”
Majewski’s campaign ads on Facebook and X (which used to be Twitter) show the Ohio candidate in his U.S. Air Force uniform and say “Majewski Veteran for Congress.”
An ad that was put to Majewski’s X account earlier this month shows him in his U.S. Air Force uniform with the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, which the U.S. Air Force gave him for his service in Qatar. This newspaper talked to someone at the Pentagon who said that while they do want employees to follow the duties of citizenship, the order and disclaimer are meant to protect the U.S. military from partisan political activity.
“In general, all activities that could be seen as linking the DOD in any way to partisan political activities should be avoided,” the spokesperson said. A Pentagon spokesperson said that when the Defense Department gets a report of a directive violation, it is sent to the candidate’s current or past military branch to be looked over and responded to. The spokesperson said, “Following [the DOD directive] makes sure that candidates for office don’t break DoD policy.”