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|Motto||The voice of America's 21st century patriots|
|Type||(PAC) and non-profit 501(c)(4)|
|Motto||The voice of America's 21st century patriots|
|Type||(PAC) and non-profit 501(c)(4)|
VoteVets.org is organized as a non-partisan political action committee (PAC) and non-profit 501(c)(4) status in the United States. It was co-founded in 2006 by Jon Soltz and Jeremy Broussard.
Initially composed of United States Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, the organization views defense policy as an American priority. The stated goal of the PAC is to put in Congress Afghanistan or Iraq war veterans who are critical of the execution of the war in Iraq.
According to the VoteVets.org, the goal of the 501(c)(4) is to educate the American public on the war and military issues, and hold politicians accountable. In February 2007, a VoteVets.org spokesman told the The Washington Post that the group had 20,000 members, including 1,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan'. According to the group's website, the group has over 220,000 supporters.
Although organized as nonpartisan, it has been described as "partisan", "closely aligned with Congressional Democrats," and "liberal" in news stories. In a June 2011 press release, the organization specifically identified itself as the "largest progressive group of veterans in America."
During the United States 2006 election cycle, VoteVets.org PAC spent between $1.2 and $2 million (sources differ) trying to influence the outcomes of various congressional races.   Senators targeted by the VoteVets' campaign for their support of the Iraq War include: Republicans George Allen, Rick Santorum, Conrad Burns, and Jim Talent. For each congressional campaign, they released a television advertisement criticizing the (now former) senators for their vote against body armor for US troops in 2003. VoteVets claim was based, in part, on the Republican senators' vote against an amendment offered  by Democratic Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, in 2003, to boost National Guard and Reserves equipment funding by $1 billion.  The group FactCheck.org (a self-described non-partisan project of the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania) stated that the ad was misleading because the 2003 Senate budget amendment (on which the criticism was based) made no specific reference to "body armor".  However, the progressive Media Matters for America repeatedly pointed out what it said were "misleading" statements about the ads by FactCheck.org.
The group also ran ads targeting now-former Republican Representatives Melissa Hart, Gil Gutknecht, John Sweeney, John Doolittle, and Jon Porter. In that ad, an Iraq veteran, Tomas Young, who was paralyzed in Iraq, criticized the members of Congress for voting against increases in funding for veterans’ health care, while, in some cases, voting themselves a pay raise.
The group also made a number of contributions to candidates, but only to those candidates who served during the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. In 2006, out of all the Iraq or Afghanistan veterans running for Congress, VoteVets.org supported all but one of them (Van Taylor, Republican in Texas). Those endorsed candidates were: Patrick Murphy (D-PA), Joe Sestak (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sam Schultz (R-IN), Andrew Duck (D-MD), and David Harris (D-TX). The group also supported Tim Walz (D-MN), and Chris Carney (D-PA). Murphy, Sestak, Walz, and Carney were all elected to Congress, and VoteVets.org’s site indicates they have been endorsed for their 2008 reelection.
VoteVets.org Political Action Committee continued to endorse Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for Congress in the 2008 elections. Those include Rick Noriega (D-TX) who ran for Senate in Texas against incumbent John Cornyn, and many who ran for the House, including John Boccieri (D-OH), Michael D. Lumpkin (D-CA), Ashwin Madia (D-MN), Jill Morgenthaler (D-IL), Steve Sarvi (D-MN), and Jonathan Powers (D-NY). The group also has endorsed candidates who are not Iraq or Afghanistan combat veterans, including Eric Massa (D-NY), and Gary Peters (D-MI), who both served within the last decade. The group also held an on-line runoff, in which members were able to vote for one older veteran to endorse. That runoff was won by Charlie Brown (D-CA), who the group endorsed.
The group also endorsed the candidates who it endorsed in 2006 and reached Congress, Democratic Representatives Patrick Murphy, Joe Sestak, Tim Walz, and Chris Carney. Overall, VoteVets PAC contributed nearly $500,000 to candidates and other PACs during the 2008 election cycle.
While VoteVets did not officially endorse a candidate for president in 2008, the group did publicly support Barack Obama's plan for Iraq and actively opposed John McCain's campaign for President, despite McCain being an honored war veteran.
VoteVets.org Action Fund, the group's non-profit wing, has also been active in the paid airwaves. The first ad generated by the action fund was an ad critical of then-Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, for "failing to ask the tough questions" on the war. The group ran a newspaper ad and radio ad, featuring Jeremy Broussard, in Connecticut. The Action Fund also commissioned a 2006 poll, conducted by pollster Celinda Lake, of troops who had returned from Iraq. That poll found many troops did not feel they were given what they needed to succeed in Iraq, and even more had faced medical, mental, and financial hardship when they returned home.
The action fund ran a television ad that gained national prominence titled, "Because of Iraq." That ad was notable because it included the image of another television ad, featuring Osama bin Laden, produced by the Republican National Committee, commonly referred to as the "ticking time bomb" ad. The ad from VoteVets begins with a series of veterans of the war explaining what they felt was a negative impact of the war in Iraq. For example, one veteran said, "Because of Iraq, there are more terrorists in the world." At the end of the VoteVets ad, General Wesley Clark says, "So if you see commercials telling you to be afraid of terrorism, remember: It's because of Iraq."
In a series of ads that may have received the most attention for the group, VoteVets.org presented three generals, two of whom were commanders on the ground in Iraq, who became critical of President Bush's execution of the war. Those were Major General (ret.) John Batiste, Major General (ret.) Paul Eaton, and General Wesley Clark. Major General Batiste had commanded the First Infantry Division in Iraq, and Major General Eaton had been the first to be in command of rebuilding Iraqi Defense Forces after the fall of the Saddam regime. Those ads ran in the districts of Congressmen and Senators that the group felt were ready to abandon the President on the war. In fact, four targets of the ad were part of the so-called "gang of eleven" Republicans who went to the White House to complain to President Bush about the war, right after the ad aired. Though some claimed the targets of the ad were "vulnerable Republicans," some of the targets, including Reps. Fred Upton and Mike Rogers, have easily won reelection in the past, and are considered "safe" seats.
In 2008, the Action Fund undertook two major actions that received national attention. First, the organization, along with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington exposed an internal email from a Department of Veterans Affairs center in Temple, Texas, which read in part, "Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that we refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, R/O PTSD. The exposing of the email caused Senator Barack Obama to call for hearings, and for Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the Senate, Senator Daniel Akaka, to hold such hearings.
The second major action was a public push for a 21st Century GI Bill, which would boost the amount troops received in education benefits. The Action Fund backed the bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Webb and Senator Chuck Hagel. As part of the group's efforts, it released an internet video with Brave New Films, urging the passage of the bill, with an attached petition, which received 30,000 signatures, according to the group. It also aired television ads, targeting Senator John McCain and Senator John Cornyn, who did not support the bill.
In January 2010, dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from VoteVets.org traveled to Washington, D.C. to join with the Campaign to Close Guantanamo in lobbying the United States Congress to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The veterans delivered a letter to a number of Congressmen and Senators, co-signed by about 2000 veterans, calling for Congress to follow President Barack Obama's lead, and move to shut down the facility that they felt had become a blight on America's reputation.
On February 4, 2010, VoteVets.org launched a $2 million ad campaign in seven states and Washington, D.C., pushing for a comprehensive energy bill that, according to VoteVets.org, would cut dependence on oil, and calling out those who the organization felt were putting contributions from oil interests above American interest. The 30-second ads were directed at Senators Mitch McConnell, the minority leader from Kentucky, Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and Representative Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois. VoteVets also launched an ad against Missouri Republican Congressman Roy Blunt for his alleged acceptance of over $150,000 in contributions from oil companies who have done business with countries who have ties to terrorism. Blunt formed a Veterans for Roy Blunt group in response.
On March 4, 2010, VoteVets.org committed close to a million dollars to a powerful ad campaign—which ran nationally and in eight states - which tied Iran's ability to create new and powerful weapons used against U.S. troops to American addiction to oil. It called on Congress to pass comprehensive clean energy legislation and defund America's most dangerous enemies. The ad was paid for by VoteVets.org Action Fund in coordination with Operation Free. Local versions of the ad are running in eight states, calling on Senators to provide leadership on the issue by committing to the passage of a clean energy and climate change bill. Those states include: Alaska (Mark Begich (D), Lisa Murkowski (R)), Indiana (Evan Bayh (D), Richard Lugar (R)), Maine (Olympia Snowe (R) Susan Collins (R)), Missouri (Claire McCaskill (D)), Montana (Max Baucus (D) John Tester (D)), North Dakota (Kent Conrad (D), Byron Dorgan (D)), Virginia (Jim Webb (D), Mark Warner (D)), and West Virginia (Robert Byrd (D), Jay Rockefeller (D)).
The ad featured Iraq War and US Army Veteran Christopher Miller, who earned a Purple Heart as the result of an explosion from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Miller highlights the destructive potential of a newer and more powerful explosive device, the Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP), which was brought to Iraq from Iran and then used against our troops. Photos and news clips show the deadly capability of the weapon.
Miller noted that every time the price of a barrel of oil increases $1, Iran makes another $1.5 billion, enhancing their ability to create weapons to be used against our troops. The World oil market depends greatly upon Iranian supply and the United States, as the top consumer of oil in the world, significantly drives up oil prices.
The ad concludes by telling Congress, "It's time to lead. Pass Clean Energy and Climate Legislation."
Senator John Kerry, the sponsor of the bi-partisan clean energy bill on the Senate, endorsed the ad on the same day. On April 14, 2010, conservative Fox News host Bill O'Reilly showed the ad on his television show during a segment with conservative comedian and commentator Dennis Miller in which both endorsed the ad.
In March 2010, VoteVets partnered with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington against Sean Hannity and his "Freedom Concerts" alleging that Hannity had engaged in deceptive and illegal marketing practices by suggesting that all concert ticket sale revenue goes directly to scholarships for children of killed and wounded service members." CREW and VoteVets filed complaints with the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission about Freedom Concerts, Freedom Alliance, and Lt. Col. Oliver North.
In April 2010, VoteVets conducted a poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans regarding their positions on clean energy. The poll found that 73 percent of them supported Clean Energy Climate Change legislation in the United States Congress, 79 percent believed ending our dependence on foreign oil was important to national security, and 67 percent supported the argument that such legislation will help their own economic prospects.
In May 2010, VoteVets launched an ad campaign in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The massive $1.5 million television and web ad campaign was the first to make the connection between the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and our national security. The ad campaign features a veteran who served with the Louisiana National Guard, cleaning up the massive spill, speaking from a polluted shoreline of Louisiana.
In the ad, Louisiana resident and veteran Evan Wolf makes the point that the necessity of using the Guard to help clean up efforts takes the military away from critical national security missions. Indeed, over 11,000 Guardsmen have been sent to the Gulf to help with the clean up.
In the ad, Wolf says, “When I signed on with the National Guard, I did it to help protect America from our enemies… Not to clean up an oil company’s mess here in the Gulf of Mexico… But America needs a new mission. Because whether it’s deep-drilling oil out here, or spending a billion dollars a day on oil from our enemies overseas, our dependence on oil is threatening our national security.”
"Some folks in Washington say now is not the time for clean American power. I got to ask - if not now, when?" he closes.
The television ad ran on national cable, with versions running in Louisiana, Florida, Maine, Washington, New Jersey, Illinois, and New Hampshire, that called on those states’ Senators to push clean legislation forward. Legislation pending in the Senate would cut America’s foreign oil dependence in half, expand the clean energy manufacturing tax credit by $5 billion and force offshore drilling rigs further offshore.
In June 2010, VoteVets partnered with the League of Conservation Voters, Service Employees International Union, and Sierra Club and announced an $11 million campaign to help ensure that the U.S. Senate takes decisive action on comprehensive energy and climate legislation that summer. This unprecedented effort is one of the largest coordinated efforts to date to educate the public on where key Senators stand on the historic fight to put America back in control of its energy future with legislation that creates new clean energy jobs, reduces our dangerous addiction to oil and curbs harmful carbon pollution.
As part of the campaign, VoteVets ran ads criticizing Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Mike Johanns (R-NE), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) for opposing clean energy climate legislation. The coalition also ran ads supporting Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Harry Reid (D-NV) for their support of the legislation.
In July 2010, VoteVets launched an ad campaign featuring Brigadier General Steven Anderson (Ret.), Chief of Logistics in Iraq under General David Petraeus, calling for the U.S. Senate to pass a Clean Energy plan. In the ad, Anderson cited how our dependence on oil has led to American deaths in the warzone.
In August 2010, VoteVets helped expose an alleged scam perpetrated by banks in the disbursement of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) funds to gold star service flag families. According to VoteVets, Prudential Financial and MetLife had been investing life insurance benefits for service members killed and Iraq and Afghanistan and not turning the accrued interest over to the families of the deceased. VoteVets launched a petition asking Congress to hold hearings on the issue.
In September 2010, VoteVets spent $500,000 in a massive literature drop and get out the vote campaign in Pennsylvania for Democrats Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy and Bryan Lentz, all Veterans. Some of the dispersed literature compared Republican Pennsylvania Senate nominee Pat Toomey to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and criticizing his support of financial institutions over Veterans and his voted against combat bonuses for deployed troops. Additionally, VoteVets spent time in Washington state praising the record on veterans issues of Democratic Senator Patty Murray and claiming that her Republican opponent, Dino Rossi, had a sub-par record on similar issues.
In October, VoteVets launched nearly $1 Million dollars in ads in Pennsylvania criticizing Republicans Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Toomey. That same month, VoteVets launched a $400,000 ad buy in Nevada in support of Democratic Senator Harry Reid. According to VoteVets, titled "Highway," the ad shows a young man hiking along the road, just as Harry Reid did once a week as he went back and forth to school. Narrated by Anthony Funches an Air Force veteran from Las Vegas, the ad chronicles how Harry Reid has always beat the odds, including his leadership to provide care and benefits to our nation's veterans.
"Harry Reid has always been there for us," said Jon Soltz, Iraq War veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.org. "This ad truly encapsulates how we feel about him and the dogged leadership he's provided, especially when it comes to veterans. In very many ways, veterans coming home face the same kind of challenges that Harry Reid has always conquered - getting an education, working our way up the ladder. So not only are we thankful for his leadership, and respect it, but we identify with his character. That's why we've chosen to run an ad like this.".
Also in October 2010, VoteVets spent $350,000 on an ad in Missouri criticizing Republican Senate Candidate and Representative Roy Blount for his vote against health care for 9/11 first responders. VoteVets also spent $200,000 in Virginia to run ads criticizing Republican House candidate Robert Hurt for his lack of support for unemployment benefit extension which the group claimed disproportionately affected Veterans. Later that month, VoteVets announced a dramatic expansion of its ad buys in Pennsylvania and Nevada by a combined $600,000. In all, the expansion brought VoteVets spending to $4 million dollars during the cycle, across the country.
In November 2010, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of the group, Jon Soltz, announced a one-year leave of absence from the organization to deploy to Iraq, as part of Operation New Dawn. He will reassume his position upon his return.
The group, however, continued its work on the same issues - from veterans health care, to energy independence - with interim Chairman, and Iraq War Veteran, Ashwin Madia, who has been the group's Vice Chairman since 2009. The rest of the VoteVets.org infrastructure remained the same.
On December 12, 2011, Soltz returned as Chairman of VoteVets.org after completing his deployment to Iraq. Soltz was one of the last American troops to leave the country.
On November 20, 2007, VoteVets.org launched a blog on politics and the military called VetVoice. On the blog's first day, VetVoice posted messages from seven presidential candidates welcoming troops and veterans to the site. The blog is edited by Afghanistan War veteran Richard Allen Smith.
In May 2007, retired Major General John Batiste appeared in a political video for VoteVets.org.  As part of a $500,000 campaign, variations of the video were shown in a number of congressional districts and also included two other retired generals: Paul D. Eaton and Wesley K. Clark.  Batiste had been an Iraq War news consultant for CBS News. However, following his appearance in the video, CBS stated that appearing in the advertisement violated their contract, and Batiste was asked to "vacate his position." 
As of September 2010[update] from the VoteVets.org website.