The Melancon’s press release announcing the endorsement said in part, ““I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the VFW PAC. Our veterans have fought for us – our Senator should fight for them in return,” Melancon said. “Our troops deserve every bit of our unwavering support, not only when they’re fighting abroad, but after they return home. That’s why I’ve always stood up for our veterans in Congress. That’s why I supported the new GI bill, to provide better education benefits. And why my very first bill in Congress provided $53 million more for trauma care for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”
However, a statement by the Richard L. Eubank the Commander-in-Chief , Richard L. DeNoyer the Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief and John E. Hamilton the Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign War shows great concern over the endorsements made by the PAC. Specifically, the VFW leaders state “However, our recent endorsement process unintentionally provided favoritism to the incumbents. It is now evident it was unfairly skewed and actually subverted that process.”
Democrat Charlie Melancon of Louisiana is not an incumbent in the Louisiana US Senate race against the Republican incumbent David Vitter.
Here is the statement made by the VFW leaders concerning the PAC’s endorsement:
“The angry tone and tenor of the telephone calls and messages being received at national headquarters make it clear that many of our members are not cognizant of the fact that VFW National By-Laws clearly stipulate that the VFW Commander-in-Chief is not authorized to direct or otherwise attempt to introduce his control over the VFW PAC. Furthermore, no membership dues or donations made to the VFW or VFW Foundation are used for the VFW PAC.
As you know, the recent endorsements by the PAC are the subject of much controversy. Unfortunately, many questions have been raised regarding VFW’s involvement in the endorsement process and the integrity of the organization as a whole. Regrettably, many of our members and supporters are disappointed and have misdirected their anger toward the VFW as having lost its purpose.
Comrades, we cannot sit idly by while a great organization is being disparaged and maligned, even unintentionally. It is vitally important that you take a direct role in alleviating this current flood of criticism by reminding members and supporters that:
-- The VFW PAC was created by the VFW members and not by VFW national leaders. 2/3 of the delegates of the 80th VFW National Convention (1979) voted to establish PAC as a standing committee.
-- VFW By-Laws stipulate that VFW leadership does not direct PAC activities and that the VFW convention is the governing body of the organization. As such, it is only the delegates at the convention that can determine the continuation of the PAC.
-- Encourage VFW members to get involved in their VFW Posts and to exercise and further direct their concerns to convention delegates so that there can be an informed debate on the existence of the PAC.
That is a future process. But, as indicated, we also have an immediate necessity on the recent PAC endorsements. VFW’s values and guiding principles aren’t grounded in a desire to participate in partisan policies in political activities. As veterans of foreign wars, we gave substantially more of ourselves than most to ensure the viability and the integrity of our great democratic process. However, our recent endorsement process unintentionally provided favoritism to the incumbents. It is now evident it was unfairly skewed and actually subverted that process.
As determined in the VFW By-Laws, as the national officers, we have specific responsibilities to take definitive action when events can have a detrimental impact on the organization. It is clear to us that the current situation now demands direct action; therefore, we are requesting the chairman and the directors of the Political Action Committee immediately rescind their endorsement actions.
We also want to stress this request means no endorsement for any Congressional candidate. “
However, the VFW PAC has also put a letter on its web site in this war of words, which states:
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct 13,2010 - The VFW-PAC was established in 1979 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) as a separate, nonpartisan organization charged with the single task of working in Congress to support candidates who have taken responsible positions on issues involving national defense and legislation pertaining to the nation's veterans.
An eleven member Board of Directors reviews and establishes the criteria used for the endorsement process each election cycle. This cycle the Board chose a methodology for endorsement that was used successfully in years past; grading an incumbent's support by the position taken on critical issues of importance to the VFW. Therefore, thirteen roll call votes in the House of Representatives and nine votes in the Senate that aligned with VFW priority goals were selected to grade the support of incumbent members of Congress. The bar was set high, as a Senator must have voted in concert with the VFW position on 7 of 9 votes and a Representative 10 of 13 to receive the VFW-PAC endorsement. If a member of Congress failed to make the grade, the Board would consider a challenger for that Congressional seat. The Board would also consider candidates running for open seats. Both challengers and open seat candidates would have to state in writing their position on VFW priority goals.
There are a few races out of 356 endorsed candidates in both the House and Senate, where emotions are running high, that are getting a lot of attention. In some cases there are veterans and even VFW members running against Congressional incumbents endorsed by the VFW-PAC. It would not only be unfair, but contrary to VFW-PAC By-Laws to disregard the incumbent's record of support and endorse another candidate. The VFW-PAC will not abandon those in Congress that have supported issues of critical importance to our nation's security and veterans.
In the political endorsement arena, there will always be party loyalists and individuals that will not agree with the VFW-PAC decision. The Board respects their position and appreciates their activism in support of the candidate of their choice. The VFW-PAC endorsement is not designed to tell people how to vote; but to point out who has demonstrated support for veterans and America's security.
The VFW-PAC disagrees with those who claim the endorsement process is skewed, flawed, or unfair. Some incumbents will have an advantage over another candidate because they have a good voting record on the issues. They also have a disadvantage if their votes don't support the VFW's position. Holding lawmakers accountable and judging them by their actions on legislative issues is a fair and necessary standard. This Congress has been very good to veterans and incumbent endorsements reflect that support.
The VFW-PAC stands by the endorsement process used during the 2010 election cycle.
About the VFW-PAC
According to Federal Law, the Veterans of Foreign Wars cannot legally endorse candidates. To overcome the legal challenges of influencing on Capitol Hill, the organization established a Political Action Committee— a separate, nonpartisan organization charged with the single task of working in Congress to support candidates who share our views about key veterans’ military and defense issues.
The VFW-PAC is established to promote and facilitate the accumulation and distribution of voluntary contributions from employees and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its subordinate units, (Posts, Districts, County Councils, Departments, Ladies Auxiliary and Military Order of the Cooties) for the support of various candidates for election to federal office in the United States. The established endorsement criteria not withstanding, no Presidential candidate will be endorsed by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors. The VFW-PAC is dedicated to the support of candidates who have taken responsibile positions on issues involving national defense and legislation pertaining to our nation's veterans.