John Kerry military service controversy
The John Kerry military service controversy occurred during the 2004 presidential election. John Kerry was the Democratic nominee for president, challenging incumbent Republican candidate George W. Bush. Prior to this time, John Kerry was known as a senator from Massachusetts, a position he has held since 1985, as well as for his service in the army during the Vietnam War and subsequent public testimony about atrocities he had witnessed and statements against the War.
The John Kerry military service controversy began in 2004 with the formation of a group called Swift Boat Veterans For Truth (SBVT). Roughly 250 former members who had served in Swift boat units during the Vietnam War (under the auspices of the United States Navy) claimed membership in the group. Subsequently, SBVT released four television commercials attacking John Kerry as dishonest and untrustworthy, as well as someone whose statements about American conduct were both false and demoralizing.
The John Kerry military service controversy was further stoked by a book released in August 2004, which contained interviews whose selective nature was later called into question. The book made further allegations about Kerry's service. The John Kerry military service controversy also included statements from the group calling into question whether Kerry had improperly been awarded any citations, such as the Purple Heart, during his service.
In response to the group's activities, three non-profit organizations filed a joint complaint with the Federal Election Commission in August of 2004. In their complaint, they stated that while SBVT was acting as a political action committee registered as a Section 527 organization with the IRS, it had failed to register with the Federal Election Commission, rendering the group's fundraising activities illegal. This complaint was followed by shortly by a complaint filed by the John Kerry campaign with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that SBVT had coordinated its activities with both the Bush re-election campaign and with members of the Republican party. Such coordination is a violation of the terms of Section 527 registration.
After investigating the claims, the Federal Election Commission returned its verdict in early December of 2006. In its report, the organization rejected the idea that the John Kerry military service controversy had been coordinated by SBVT in tandem with either the Republican party or the Bush re-election campaign. It dismissed numerous other charges. However, the Federal Election Commission found that SBVT had failed to register properly and had acted in violation of the law during its fundraising activities. The organization was fined roughly $300,000.
In a separate legal action, in 2004 the nonprofit organization Justice Watch filed a request for a review by the Navy of whether John Kerry's medals had been properly awarded. A partial review was completed and issued in September 2004, concluding that all medals had been documented and awarded properly, and that there was no justifiable cause for further investigation.