Montana News

Dec 28, 2013 1:03 PM by Sanjay Talwani (sanjay@kxlh.com)

Army report cites Walsh for improper private gain during MT National Guard service

HELENA - Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D-MT) has focused his campaign for the United States Senate on his record of public service, including four years as the Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard.

Walsh has led troops in Iraq and wants Montanans to know about his long record of military service when they reach the voting booth.

"Prior to becoming lieutenant governor I've served for 33 years in the Montana National Guard," he said in an interview with MTN News on December 16th. "So basically my entire adult life has been involved with public service."

But an August 2010 report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Army, obtained by MTN News, says that Walsh improperly used his position in the Guard for his own gain.

The report says Walsh improperly solicited other Guard leaders to join a non-governmental group, the National Guard Association of the United States.

Walsh wanted to boost Montana Guard membership in that association because he was running for vice-chairman of the group, the report says.

And in emails sent to Guard members from his government email account, Walsh linked the Montana Guard's readiness to its involvement with the group, saying such support was necessary for the Guard to get its appropriate level of government funding, according to the report.

"I was disappointed to see that you have decided not to support the NGAUS especially after my previous memo outlining the significant contributions of NGAUS over the past several years," Walsh wrote in one such email to subordinates who hadn't joined the group. "I am concerned that as an officer and leader in our organization you do not support my priorities which is to improve the readiness of MTNG which NGAUS clearly does."

The report said some of the emails "seemed coercive." One subordinate testified that the fact that senior members of the command were talking about him in emails felt "very threatening," according to the report.

Walsh also directed his executive assistant at the Guard to perform "administrative/travel duties" related to NGAUS, and use his official title and photograph in efforts on behalf of the group.

The report lists three different "substantiated allegation(s) and conclusion(s)":

* Walsh improperly endorsed a non-federal entity (NGAUS);
* Walsh improperly used his government position for private gain;
* Walsh improperly used government resources.

It's not clear from the report what punishment, if any, Walsh received from the military. Walsh retired from the Guard in 2012 to run for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Steve Bullock.

A spokesman for Bullock, who has endorsed Walsh for Senate, said Bullock has been aware of the report since March 2012, when he asked Walsh to be his running mate.

"The Governor understands that Lieutenant Governor Walsh, throughout his long and decorated military career, went to great lengths to strengthen the military, the Montana National Guard. and the representation our citizen soldiers and their families have in Washington," the spokesman said in an email. "Moreover, the Governor finds it unseemly that people would use someone's service to their country to dirty a good man's name to score political points."

Walsh faces former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams in the Democratic primary for Senate. He is also a possible pick for appointment to that position by Bullock when current Sen. Max Baucus vacated to post upon his confirmation as ambassador to China, which is widely expected in the next few months.

U.S. Rep Steve Daines is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the Senate Race.

Walsh spokesperson Lauren Smith, when asked for comment about the IG report, released the following statement: "John Walsh has a distinguished 33-year career in the Montana National Guard including leading over 700 Montanans into Iraq. He continues to put service before self and is exactly the kind of leader Montana needs in the U.S. Senate, including making standing up for Montana's veterans and service men and women one of his top priorities."

Army report cites Walsh for improper private gain during MT National Guard service