American Legion Post 434 endorsed Ben Lange, a Republican who grew up in the Buchanan County community and hopes to win the GOP nomination for 1st District Congress.
“It is our privilege to endorse Ben Lange as a homegrown Iowan, as an authentic and steadfast citizen, and as a trusted gentleman who will stand firm for the cause of freedom,” post commander Cleon Ohrt said in a recent announcement. Lange faces three other Republicans in the party’s June 8 primary to choose a nominee to face Waterloo Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley in November.
There’s just one problem: the American Legion doesn’t endorse political candidates.
“Never, never, never have we endorsed candidates,” said John Ross of Osage, a past American Legion state commander and now a national executive committee member. “This really floored me.”
The Lange campaign said Monday there was a bit of a mix-up over the endorsement and said it will issue a statement explaining that Ohrt’s endorsement was personal, not on behalf of the Legion.
“We want to clarify this so there is no misunderstanding,” said Lange campaign spokesman Cody Brown.
He explained Lange visited the Quasqueton Legion Post 434. Commander Cleon Ohrt of Quasqueton indicated he wanted to help Lange and issued the endorsement.
“We’ll issue a corrected release. It’s a personal endorsement,” Brown said.
Monday afternoon, the Lange campaign’s news release on the endorsement had been removed from its Web site – www.langeforcongress.com.
The Legion encourages members to vote and participate in campaigns, “but we are not allowed to endorse candidates,” Kathy Nees, programs director of the Iowa American Legion. The Legion goes so far as to advised members who run for office not to wear their Legion caps in campaign photos, she said.
The Legion is a non-partisan organization and its tax-exempt status could be jeopardized by the Quasqueton post’s endorsement, Nees said.
In fact, Article II of the Legion’s constitution says the group “shall be absolutely non-political and shall not be used for the dissemination of partisan principles nor for the promotion of the candidacy of any person seeking public office or preferment.”
Ohrt did not immediately return phone calls Monday.