WASHINGTON (AP) — Endorsements from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee have so enraged many VFW members that its elected leaders have asked the PAC to immediately rescind all endorsements for next month's election.
The PAC's leaders flatly rejected the idea Wednesday.
The veterans group established the PAC in 1979, but it is operated separately. The PAC bases its endorsements on how lawmakers voted on specific issues of importance to veterans and members of the military.
"The VFW–PAC will not abandon those in Congress that have supported issues of critical importance to our nation's security and veterans," said a statement posted on the PAC's website.
Hundreds of VFW members have been calling the national headquarters in recent days to complain about some of the endorsements, particularly about two races — both featuring Democratic incumbents.
In one race, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California got the PAC's endorsement over Republican Carly Fiorina (News - Alert). In the other, Rep. Ron Klein of Florida got the endorsement over Republican and Iraq war veteran Allen West.
In calling on the PAC to rescind its endorsements, the VFW's commander in chief, Richard L. Eubank, and two other officers said that the endorsement process "unintentionally provided favoritism to the incumbents."
"It is now evident it was unfairly skewed," Eubank wrote in a letter published on the organization's website.
The VFW has about 1.5 million members, and the endorsement from its PAC is usually widely advertised by the candidates.
Jerry Newberry, the VFW's director of communications, said the group's national headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., receives complaints about endorsements every election. However, this year's outcry has been the strongest, said Newberry, because of the rising use of technology as well as growing partisanship.
"This election cycle, I don't even think 'divisive' is a good word for it. It's not strong enough," Newberry said. "It stands to reason if that's the climate in the country, it's going to apply in this case."
The PAC's criteria for endorsements require senators to vote in favor of the VFW's position on seven of nine measures that were approved in 2008 and 2009. Its criteria for House members require votes in favor of the VFW's position on 10 of 13.
An 11–member board sets the criteria for endorsements. The PAC said there will always be party loyalists who won't agree with an endorsement, and it defended the board's methodology.
"Holding lawmakers accountable and judging them by their actions on legislative issues is a fair and necessary standard," read the statement on the PAC's website. "This Congress has been very good to veterans and incumbent endorsements reflect that support."
On the campaign trail in California, Fiorina said that protests from VFW members and veterans showed that the endorsement did not reflect their views of Boxer. Meanwhile, Boxer said she was proud of the endorsement.
"It just demonstrates I've worked hard for our veterans," she said.
Associated Press (News - Alert) writers Don Thompson in Sacramento and Judy Lin in Fresno contributed to this report.
Letter concerning endorsements: http://www.vfw.org
List of endorsements: http://www.vfwpac.org/Revised%20Endorsement%20List%20Sept%2024–1.pdf