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'Personal Gain'

U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, who is running for a Senate seat, began airing his ad “Personal Gain” this past week.

Editor’s note: “Ad Watch” is an ongoing series that examines and fact-checks current TV campaign ads in Montana. Today, it examines an ad by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Daines, attacking Democratic U.S. Sen. John Walsh.

This 30-second spot by Daines’ campaign began airing on Montana TV stations within the past week.

Script

Daines: “I’m Steve Daines and I approved this message.”

Narrator: “We know John Walsh mismanaged our tax dollars. There’s more. Walsh was reprimanded by the Army for abusing his position and misusing taxpayer resources for personal gain.”

TV anchorwoman No. 1: “The Army eventually reprimanded Walsh for improperly using government resources.”

TV anchorwoman No. 2: “The general writing the Army reprimand said that the incident called him to question Walsh’s ability to lead.”

Narrator: “John Walsh. Mismanagement. Questionable ethics. Failed leadership.”

Analysis: The ad refers to two incidents involving Walsh: A 2011 state legislative audit that said the agency he oversaw didn’t properly monitor some federal Homeland Security grants, and a 2010 Army reprimand for using his position as head of the Montana National Guard to promote a private association that supports the National Guard.

Both incidents occurred, but the ad exaggerates the seriousness of each one.

The audit didn’t say Walsh “mismanaged” taxpayer money. It said the Department of Military Affairs, which he headed, didn’t properly monitor how local governments and state agencies in Montana spent the federal grant money. Walsh agreed with the audit and took steps to correct the problem.

The reprimand, from the vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, noted that Walsh, while head of the Montana National Guard, had used his government email to encourage fellow officers in the Montana Guard to join the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), a private organization that lobbies for and supports the National Guard. It said he improperly used government resources to support a “non-federal entity,” and that he used his government position for “private gain.” The alleged “private gain” was to help his election to a regional post within the NGAUS.

Walsh has said the regional post with the NGAUS is a volunteer position, without pay, and that he doesn’t see how getting elected to the post is “private gain.” He has characterized the reprimand as getting “thrown into jail for jaywalking.”

Walsh released all documentation of his military record, revealing nothing but commendations until this incident.

— Mike Dennison, Gazette State Bureau

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Managing editor at The Billings Gazette.