VFW vs. Tea Parties

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One might think there would be some overlap in membership between Tea Parties and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), which represents U.S. veterans. After all, today's military personnel overwhelmingly represent the same geographic regions of the U.S. that tend towards conservative politics. But, as the Tea Parties near their first major round of elections in November, they aren't getting endorsed by the VFW. The VFW has not endorsed a single Tea Party candidate, according to a report by Mother Jones' Adam Weinstein, spurning them for more establishment Republican and Democratic candidates. That hasn't gone over too well with the Tea Party. Weinstein, himself a veteran, writes, "As a result, the interest group is facing a mutiny within its ranks, one that goes all the way to the top."

From Hernando County, Florida, to Windsor, Connecticut, plenty of the VFW's 8,000-plus local posts are happy to host tea party meetings for the dozens of GOP vets vying for House and Senate seats next month. But when the group's political action committee released its latest slate of endorsements (PDF), none of those hopefuls made the cut. Not Joe Miller, the Sarah Palin-approved ex-soldier who's already dispatched sitting Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski for the state's GOP nomination. ... In all, at least 11 GOP tea party candidates (see a list below) with solid military credentials have been passed over by the VFW.

Weinstein explains that the VFW's rules limit them to endorsing incumbents, which naturally excludes Tea Party candidates.

Critics say the organization's entire endorsement process is skewed toward incumbent candidates with legislative experience: According to VFW-PAC's website (PDF), Senate candidates must cast at least seven votes for VFW-approved legislation to be endorsed; House hopefuls need 10 such votes. Nowhere does it explain how non-incumbents can fulfill those criteria.

Weinstein reports that the resulting dissent within the VFW has led one of the group's leaders to suggest dismantling the VFW wing responsible for the endorsements.

Even the group's national commander, Richard Eubank, is taking potshots at his group's political arm: The VFW home page features a terse item, "VFW Leadership at Odds With VFW-PAC," laying out the differences. "Obviously, an organization's political positions have to reflect the opinions of its members," Eubank writes. "But those opinions can't be perceived as 'off the wall.'" The post went on to say that "because of the controversy surrounding the endorsements, VFW line officers have decided to bring the question of continued existence of the PAC to the floor during the 112th VFW national convention in August." Late Tuesday, Eubank issued a second statement that went even further than the first, this one demanding that his organization's PAC executives "immediately rescind their endorsement actions."

So who will win? Will the internal VFW fight lead the group to change its rules so that it can endorse Tea Party candidates, or will the country's largest veterans group continue to alienate the conservative Republican movement?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.