HELENA – Montana Democrats released a letter Wednesday asking for Republican U.S. House candidate Ryan Zinke’s military records under the Freedom of Information Act.
“Montanans deserve transparency,” retired Col. James Scott Wheeler, Montana Democratic Party treasurer, said in a letter to the chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C.
The Zinke campaign said in response that Zinke is proud of his military record. He has released some of his military documents to the media.
“I consider it a great honor to have served our country beside the brave men and women of our military, and I am extremely disappointed that my opponents have chosen to attack my record of military service,” Zinke said in a statement.
Specifically, Democrats are requesting Zinke’s official military personnel file including fitness reports, counseling forms and training records. Democratic Party officials say the request stems from allegations that Zinke misused taxpayer dollars for personal travel. They are also asking the Navy for any letters of reprimand related to that incident.
Zinke told the Associated Press previously the disputed travel claim was for a $211 plane ticket to Montana when he was a junior officer. He said he paid the money back.
“The idea they’re now suggesting that a disputed travel claim as junior officer in any way diminishes a career is shameful,” Zinke said earlier this month.
In January, U.S. Sen. John Walsh released more than 400 pages of his military records. Walsh, a Democrat, released them in response to reports that he was reprimanded for pressuring Montana National Guard troops to join the National Guard Association of the United States, a private association.
Democrats are seeking a rapid response to their request for Zinke’s records.
“Due to the fact that Ryan Zinke refers to his military background as the cornerstone of his campaign for U.S. House this November, there is an urgency to fully inform the public about Ryan Zinke’s record in the military,” Wheeler said in the letter.
Zinke, a former state senator, faces Democrat John Lewis, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, and Libertarian Mike Fellows in the Nov. 4 election for Montana’s lone House seat. Republican Rep. Steve Daines is leaving the seat to run for U.S. Senate.