Scandal: Two more Republicans say DoD leaked their files to Dem oppo-research group

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Drip, drip, drip. The politicization scandal at the Department of Defense grows a little each day as more Republicans come forward. Two more have gone public with notices from the Air Force that their confidential files got handed over to Abraham Payton of Due Diligence Group (DDG), a Democrat oppo-research firm that worked for House Democrats last cycle.


And kudos to Politico for staying on top of it, too:

Sam Peters, a Republican who challenged Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) in November, and Kevin Dellicker, who fell short in the GOP primary race to take on Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), both received Feb. 8 letters from the Air Force notifying them that Abraham Payton of Due Diligence Group made “multiple requests” for their military personnel records last year.

In both Peters and Dellicker’s cases, the Air Force identified Payton, a former research director for the Democratic group American Bridge, as having “inappropriately requested” copies of their records for “for the stated purpose of employment and benefits.”

Yesterday we learned that Reps. Don Bacon and Zach Nunn also were among the eleven candidates whose files got leaked to DDG, increasing the pressure to get answers from the DoD. Committee chairs Mike Rogers and James Comer have already demanded documentary response from Lloyd Austin not just on the scope of the eleven leaks, but also on who was involved and what disciplinary and prosecutorial efforts are taking place within the DoD and the Air Force.

The claimed technique involved here more than suggests that the effort may well go beyond the eleven cases cited by the Secretary of the Air Force. Want to bet that DDG pulled the same trick on the other service branches — assuming that this is even accurate? It worked on the Air Force, so why would Payton and DDG have limited it to just these eleven files?


And even then, this explanation seems a little too pat to take at face value. Legitimate requests for records to verify employment and benefits would have to come with signed releases from the veterans involved. Either (a) someone forged releases, (b) the DoD records person on each request was unusually sloppy in handling confidential records, or (c) Payton and DDG have a source willing to leak the records. It’s difficult to believe that Payton would risk criminal prosecution with (a). It’s equally difficult to believe that he lucked out eleven times in explanation (b). Option (c) seems the most realistic — and if so, it won’t have stopped at eleven.

Peters and Dellicker think that the effort may involve others, too. Like, say, the House Democrats’ own campaign committee:

Specifically, the affected Republicans want to know what role, if any, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and their Democratic challengers played in receiving and using information that the Air Force improperly disclosed.

“Look, you sanction a hitman to kill somebody, you’re guilty of a crime. You sanction somebody to steal, you’re guilty of a crime,” Peters said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “And the DCCC needs to be [held to account], and I fully intend on making sure they are.”


That’s an excellent question. No doubt, the DCCC and DDG have ways to keep fingerprints isolated on these tactics, but that may not be enough, especially with the material involved. House Democrats exploited Jennifer-Ruth Green’s victimization by sexual assault while serving in the Air Force, for instance, and the DCCC had to know that the information could have only come from a leak of her confidential record. If the other Republicans targeted in these leaks can also point to specific attacks by Democrats based on such records, it’s going to point back to the DCCC no matter how many firewalls they have erected between themselves and Payton.

As I said, kudos to Politico for staying on top of this scandal, which certainly adds to the weight of evidence that the federal bureaucracy has become partisanized as well as politicized. The Washington Post has no mention of this story, with searches for “Due Diligence” or “Jennifer-Ruth” producing no links to the scandal in the past week. Ditto for the New York Times on “Jennifer-Ruth” and “Due Diligence.” Give credit to CNN for covering it on Tuesday, but they never bothered to report that DDG is a Democrat oppo-research group — and haven’t updated the story since.


And the media wonders why its industry faces a financial and credibility crisis.

Update: Bacon thinks the DCCC is behind this too, considering how much money they paid to DDG:

HEMMER: “Here’s one of those affected, Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon. Sir, good morning to you, and thank you for your time. Do you think a crime was committed here, or was the Air Force just simply duped, what do you think?”

BACON: “Well, the Air Force was duped. They thought we were requesting this information for our own careers for resume building, and so forth. The Democrat organization paid for by the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee, they were paid $110,000 to do this. But they used our social security numbers and other personal identification information to look like it was us making this request. So the Air Force was deceived. The real culprit here is the DCCC who paid $110,000 to this due diligence firm who did identity theft to get this information. And they used this information wherever they thought they found, you know, an area that can exploit like Jennifer-Ruth Green, who had to relive her sexual assault a second time, basically doing victim shaming on her, and it hurt her in her campaign.”

HEMMER: “Sure, sure. So you’re saying there was involvement on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they’re in on this.”

BACON: “Yeah. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, we call it the DCCC paid $110,000, to this organization to do this background research. Their job was to collect this research and give it back to the DCCC. And then they used this information, whatever way they can find effective to hurt the Republican candidate. But you asked if this is illegal. It was identity theft, at a minimum, and our lawyers say there is a crime committed. But we want the Department of Justice takes this on.”


Color me skeptical about someone getting duped, as I explain above. Regardless, this is definitely a problem for the DCCC, and they can expect a lot of scrutiny from House Republicans.

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