HELENA, MONT. — Senatorial candidate John Walsh misused his position as Montana’s adjutant general by soliciting National Guard troops to become members of a private association for which he was seeking a leadership role, a 2010 investigation by the U.S. Army’s inspector general concluded.
The Aug. 25, 2010, report said Walsh, now the state’s lieutenant governor, improperly used his government position for private gain, improperly endorsed a non-federal entity and improperly used government resources. He was not disciplined for the violations, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.
The inspector general’s investigation was first reported by the Montana Television Network.
Walsh told Lee Newspapers he did not agree with the conclusions and he responded with a letter to the Army disputing the findings. “It was my time and my own resources in a lot of cases,” said Walsh, who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Max Baucus and faces two opponents in the 2014 Democratic primary.
The investigation followed a complaint by a National Guard officer that said Walsh used his position as head of Montana’s Department of Military Affairs and his government email to pressure subordinates to join the National Guard Association of the United States.
Walsh was seeking to be nominated as vice chairman of the private association and wrote that his opponent would likely bring up the low membership of Montana National Guard troops in the association as an issue, the report said.
Subordinates who did not join received a follow-up email that said he was concerned those subordinates “do not support my priorities which is to improve the readiness of the MTNG which NGAUS clearly does,” according to the report.
The Defense Department’s ethics rules prohibit an endorsement of a non-federal entity such as the National Guard Association of the United States by department employees in their official capacities.
DOD employees also are prohibited from endorsing membership drives or fundraising for non-federal entities, and cannot use their position to coerce another person to provide any benefit to themselves.
The report says Walsh incorrectly interpreted the rules to determine that he was not a DOD employee and that he incorrectly believed the association was not a non-federal entity.
Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer says he threw away the report when he received it and called it “much ado about nothing.” Schweitzer said the report was “a completely partisan end-run in the National Guard attempting to embarrass him (Walsh).”
“Whoever it is in the Montana National Guard that’s trying to stir this thing up, they ought to be ashamed of themselves,” Schweitzer said. “He was a great adjutant general, a wonderful leader and Montana ought to be proud that he led Montana soldiers to war.”