Air Force IDs 2 new GOP candidates whose military records were improperly released
The Air Force has notified lawmakers that it improperly released the military records of a total of seven GOP congressional candidates to a Democratic-aligned research firm during the 2022 campaign cycle.
In a letter dated Friday, which was obtained by POLITICO, the Air Force told House Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) that an audit by its personnel center found nine people’s records were “released without authority” to the firm Due Diligence Group between 2021 and 2023.
Seven of those records disclosures affected GOP candidates for office in 2022, according to the letter. Five of those Republicans are already known, and two have not been confirmed until now: J.R. Majewski, a MAGA-friendly Ohio candidate who faced campaign-trail scrutiny for misrepresenting his military record, and Robert “Eli” Bremer, who lost in last year’s GOP primary race to take on Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).
Among the Air Force veterans whose records were released to Due Diligence are Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Zach Nunn (R-Iowa), both of whom have urged their party to more broadly investigate whether the requests for their records constituted illegal activity.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy said this week that he expects House Republicans to keep pressing the matter now that the affected candidates are known.
“This isn’t going to go away quietly,” he said in an interview Monday at the House GOP retreat in Orlando, Fla. "It wasn't on just one person. It was all these Republicans running. We're gonna have to just not clamp down on that, [but] look to see if it's happened anywhere else."
In addition to Bacon and Nunn, the previously reported GOP Air Force veterans whose records were released are Jennifer-Ruth Green, an Indiana candidate who challenged Democratic Rep. Frank Mvran (D-Ind.) last year; Sam Peters, who took on Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) in November, and Kevin Dellicker, who fell short last year in the GOP primary race to challenge Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.).
The military branch launched its internal audit of records disclosures by its personnel center after POLITICO reported on Green’s records in October.
POLITICO was told by the person who gave it Green’s military records that they were obtained through a public records request. POLITICO reviewed the request for the records made by a third party, which sought a “publicly releasable/redacted copy of OMPF [Official Military Personnel File] per Freedom of Information Act statutes.” The requester identified the purpose of the request as relating to “benefits,” “employment” and “other.”
The Air Force’s letter to the House committee chairs did not name the four individuals, all outside of elected office and who did not seek office last cycle, whose records were “released without authorization” by them. The branch noted only that two of those four non-candidates had their records requested by Due Diligence Group.
An Air Force spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the letter to lawmakers and said that the names of the four people affected by the releases who were not candidates for congressional office in 2022 "are not being released to protect their privacy."
Due Diligence did not respond to requests for comment. Payton, whom POLITICO attempted to reach at an email address connected to the firm, did not respond to a request for comment.
Several Republican lawmakers have urged the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to publicly address any role it may have played in the military records requests. According to Federal Election Commission records, the DCCC paid Due Diligence just over $110,000 between January 2021 and December 2022 and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee paid just over $172,000 to Due Diligence during that period.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview that the DCCC "should be disavowing this activity if they don't want part of it.”
Philip Letsou, a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson, said: “Senate Democrats should explain why they continue to pay an opposition research firm best known for illegally obtaining veterans' military records.”
The House Democratic campaign arm's executive director, Julie Merz, said in a statement for this story: "Public records requests are a standard part of the research process. Republican and Democratic campaigns and organizations file hundreds of requests for information from government agencies every cycle."
Merz called it "the height of hypocrisy for MAGA Republicans to use the guise of a congressional investigation on [sic] mistakes the US Air Force has publicly acknowledged to target their political opponents."
The DSCC did not respond to a request for comment.
The official military personnel files of Majewski, Peters, Bremer and Green were improperly released to Due Diligence, according to the Air Force. In the cases of Bacon, Nunn, Majewski, Dellicker and Peters, the branch’s certificate of active duty release or discharge — known as the “DD Form 214” — was released to the outside firm.
The Air Force letter stated that a separate, National Guard-related form known as “NGB Form 22” was also released for Nunn.
Majewski said in an interview last month that he believed that an improper release of his records occurred in advance of an Associated Press report last year outlining his misstatements about his military background.
He said in a statement that he is “disappointed and let down by the Air Force’s poor administration processes.”
“To date I have not received any communication from them regarding my records," Majewski added. "In fact, I am the one who identified that my records were released improperly."
Bremer joined Majewski in voicing disappointment with the Air Force's handling of the matter and saying that, contrary to the Air Force's letter to House lawmakers, they never received formal notice that their records were released without their approval.
“[T]he fact that I learned about this from the media rather than from the Air Force is completely inappropriate,” Bremer said in a statement. “Our service member records should be properly kept confidential in accordance with the law.”
The Air Force's letter to GOP lawmakers says both Bremer and Majewski separately were sent “written notification” of the improper disclosures early last month.
In addition, the Air Force letter states that despite the release of the 11 people’s records “without proper authority,” a review by its Office of the Chief Information Officer related to Due Diligence Group FOIAs between 2021 and the start of 2023 found no personal identifiable information “was improperly released.”
In addition to Rogers’ and Comer’s committees, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is also looking into the records releases through his Judiciary Committee’s subpanel on the politicization of the federal government.
The Air Force’s letter sought to answer House Republican questions about its regulations governing information requests and related releases of servicemembers’ files; its investigative process if information protected under federal law is potentially improperly disclosed; and how it has changed its information-safeguarding procedures following the releases.
The branch told lawmakers that it took internal administrative action to address the records releases, providing no further details and saying that an “Air Force Office of Special Investigations review is ongoing.”
Rogers and Comer continue to seek information from other military branches regarding any efforts by the Due Diligence Group to obtain military records, following a POLITICO report that the firm also sought to obtain records for at least one other GOP candidate from the Army National Guard.