Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has officially addressed a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall concerning the political partisanship displayed by the command at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. Gaetz’s letter is a response to text messages sent to airmen at the base, advising them against attending the Dakota Patriot Rally, an event featuring a speaker from Turning Point Action, a conservative organization.
In his letter, Gaetz expresses serious concern over these messages, viewing them as a violation of the Hatch Act. This act states that active duty members should not engage in political activities while in uniform, to prevent the appearance of official Department of Defense endorsement of any political campaign or cause. Gaetz underscores that the rally on November 17, 2023, took place outside of work hours and was not held on federal property, implying that the base’s command might have overstepped its bounds.
The rally, featuring Tyler Bowyer, the Chief Operating Officer of Turning Point Action, did not seem controversial in itself, according to Gaetz. He emphasizes that Turning Point Action is a large conservative grassroots organization and is a non-profit entity. The messages sent by the base’s command, Gaetz argues, suggest a troubling politicization within the Department of the Air Force, favoring a particular political view or party.
Gaetz’s demands to Secretary Kendall are clear. He seeks the names of those at Minot AFB or elsewhere who approved or issued these warning messages. He also questions the Air Force policies that forbid participation in political events while off-duty, particularly inquiring why service members were warned that attending the rally could jeopardize their military service. Lastly, Gaetz asks what specific measures the Air Force plans to take to ensure that the constitutional rights of service members are upheld and not infringed upon in the future.
This situation highlights the ongoing debate and tension surrounding the role of the military in political activities and the extent to which service members can participate in political events, especially in their personal capacity.