Ron Paul Supporter Likely Violated Military Regulations By Speaking At Rally

If you watched Ron Paul’s victory speech last night, you likely caught the sight of Corporal Jesse Thorsen speaking on behalf of Paul, at Paul’s invitation. That invitation came about, apparently, because Thorsen’s interview on CNN earlier in the night, also in uniform, had been cut short for some reason. Here’s the video of Thorsen’s appearance on stage, via HuffPo:

Well, it turns out that Thorsen most likely violated Defense Department regulations regarding political activity while appearing in uniform:

(CNN) – Ron Paul spent Tuesday heralding his support among members of the military, but one active-duty supporter may be in trouble after lauding Paul on stage while wearing his Army uniform.

Army Cpl. Jesse Thorsen spoke during Paul’s speech at his headquarters in Ankeny, Iowa, Tuesday night. Paul invited Thorsen to speak on stage after a technical glitch cut short an earlier live interview on CNN.

Guidelines laid out in the federal Hatch Act specifically prohibit uniformed members of the military from making political speeches or taking official roles on political campaigns. Members of the military are permitted to attend political rallies, but must not be wearing their uniform while in attendance. On stage with Paul, Thorsen was wearing green Army fatigues.

On Tuesday evening, Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of the veterans’ advocacy organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, wrote on his Facebook page that Thorsen would likely be reprimanded.

“The soldier that spoke tonight on behalf of Ron Paul is gonna be in a bit of trouble,” Rieckhoff said. “Politics in uniform is a big no-go. And Paul and his campaign should know better. Troops are bound by the (Uniform Code of Military Justice).”

Kate Shephard points out the regulation in question:

the appearance likely violated the protocols for service members included in Defense Department Directive 1344.10, which states explicitly that they are not to participate in political rallies as anything more than spectators. And if they do attend a political function, they’re not supposed to do so in uniform.

Active-duty service members can “register, vote, and express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces,” the directive states. It also stipulates:

4.1.2. A member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not: Participate in partisan political fundraising activities (except as permitted in subparagraph, rallies, conventions (including making speeches in the course thereof), management of campaigns, or debates, either on one’s own behalf or on that of another, without respect to uniform or inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement. Participation includes more than mere attendance as a spectator.

And it says that service-members shall not: Speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause. Participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.

It would seem that Thorsen’s actions are a flagrant violation of the regulations, and one military law specialist agrees

“My immediate reaction, upon watching Congressman Paul’s event, was that the soldier in question was in flagrant violation of department of defense regulations,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School. “Lord knows there are people in the military, as in the rest of American society, who have very strong feelings about who is elected president. But the tradition is the military stays out of partisan politics.”

The issue wasn’t necessarily showing up in uniform; it was speaking out at a partisan political gathering. “If he was on active duty, it wouldn’t matter if he was wearing a Santa Claus costume or his birthday suit,” said Fidell. “Wearing the uniform only makes it worse.”

One would have thought someone on Paul’s staff, or Thorsen himself, would have known better.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. legion says:

    Oh, it’s not “likely”, it’s a cut-and-dried violation. I’d wager good money that idiot’s CO was standing by his desk this morning, waiting to escort him to a one-on-one meeting with the nearest O-6…

  2. KipEsquire says:

    Sorry for being an Aspie, but soldiers are also not supposed to appear in public AT ALL in Class B’s (camouflage) except when traveling to and from their duty assignment.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @legion: I’m guessing the young corporal will get a stern ass chewing and very little in the way of punishment. Damned boneheaded thing to do but not necessarily something that we emphasize in training very young soldiers.

  4. Chris says:

    I am sure the local article of reprimand will remain in his battalion file until he PCSes or ETSes. Since he appears to be a PV2, the ignorance defense will probably get him some mileage. CNN cutting him off last night was a bit wacky. Was actually a pretty quick turnaround by the campaign to allow him to put his thoughts out there.

    Of course, the numbers back up Paul; our troops donate more money to him than anyone else. They realize (especially the soldiers – the officers, only if you get them off the record) how foolish these military adventures are. All part of the empire’s decline, I suppose.

    I’d go so far as to make the no-BDUs policy mandated across the board – sporting events, parades, etc. (Thanks to Kip above, I guess it is a policy!). Dress uniforms would should be acceptable for any formal ceremony or event (such a hassle – most soldiers & officers hate them. I know I did.). This would eliminate the fun that goes along with using our troops as props during sporting events.

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Ron Paul??

  6. Thomas says:

    How is this any different than General George C. Marshall’s political activities in the 1944 Election for President Franklin Roosevelt???? General Marshall was giving stump speeches advocating FDR’s re-election over the Republican Thomas Dewey

  7. Davebo says:

    Inappropriate wearing of BDU’s has been rampant for years from Generals to Privates.

    It’s definitely a top down problem with the Army and Marine Corps.

  8. legion says:

    @James Joyner:
    True – I didn’t catch at first that he’s pretty junior. I expect Chris’ estimation is the most likely punishment – he may very well not have known better (though Paul’s campaign sure ought to have).

    As for BDUs, I got out in 2008, so I’m not clear on current policy, but after 9/11 most every place (at least in the AF) went to BDUs as the standard work uniform – even the MAJCOM staff I was on at the time. I don’t remember the last time I saw someone in regular blues/greens/whatever the Navy wears that wasn’t in some sort of formal ceremony. Of course, that lends credence to the idea that it was a spur-of-the-moment fill-in for the soldier, since they’d probably have had him in a dress uniform if it had been planned beforehand…

  9. Russell says:


    Obviously could be different in different necks of the woods, but during my USN/USMC time concluding in 2009 neither service would have been off base other than going to/from base in a working uniform (cammies, dungarees, or coveralls) without risking significant reprimand, although I have noticed that since the USN adopted those rediculous blue cammies I see them around town more and more (I blame following, inexplicably, USA uniform regs for this travesty). Where I live now I routinely see USA/USAF personnel of all ranks and grades slumming around town and the mall in BDUs. It makes me crazy, I must admit. We (my USMC bretheren) joked that when the USAF personnel went to all BDUs all the time that they needed to do it because otherwise they would forget that there was a war on. No way the USMC was relaxing their regs like that.

  10. Ryan says:

    The Army Combat Uniform (ACU’s) he is wearing is a Class C uniform, not a Class B uniform as KipEsquire stated.

    He is a Corporal (E-4) in the Reserve Component (Army National Guard or Army Reserve). I could figure out his unit, but I’m not going to bother looking up his unit patch He has been in for 10 years, so he definitely should know better. Incidentally, 10 years time in service and he’s only an E-4? He’s probably not a stellar Soldier.

    CNN should not have interviewed him on camera. The Ron Paul campaign should not have given him a platform to speak and should have advised him to change out of his uniform. I myself have come across uniformed military members at political events before and have ordered them to change out of their uniform or leave (I’m an Army officer, so I can give orders like that).

    Department of Defense regulations, Army regulations, and U.S. Code all specify what members of the military can and cannot do in regards to political activities – whether in uniform or not. What I’ve read recently, specifically mentions Active Duty members, though. I’d have to do some research to see if the Reserve Component falls under slightly different regulations, but I’m skeptical that they do.

    If his Chain of Command finds out about this incident, he will likely be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. You could make a case that his punishment should be more severe than if he merely attended the event in uniform, because he (a) was stated to have been working for the campaign, (b) spoke in support of Ron Paul in front of the crowd, and (c) was interviewed on national television. If I was his commanding officer, I’d throw the book at him to the fullest extent possible.

  11. Valerie says:

    I don’t know if this is the case with the soldier in question, but I know service members, both active duty and veterans, who specifically wear their uniforms to political rallies to protest the wars.

  12. matt says:

    @Ryan: I’m curious as to how you prove your rank when issuing an order to change clothes or leave. I imagine most people wouldn’t believe you without some sort of proof.

  13. dj says:

    @matt: @matt: Military members have their DoD issued ID card at all times which,lists their rank. I to have removed military members from political events. Discipline is a core tenant of military training so it is a rare occasion where a junior member disobeys an officer

  14. Ryan says:

    @matt: @matt: First, I made the suggestion that they change or leave; then, if they didn’t take the hint, I’d pull rank and order them. I had to flash my Military ID Card to one Soldier. Another one didn’t ask for proof – he could tell I was who I said I was by the way I spoke. I’ve never had to get anyone’s name or show my former Drill Sergeant side.

  15. Pete says:

    Ron Paul also knows the solider has rules to follow. Why didn’t he inform solider that he was out of line? Of course not, he wanted everyone to see this. Both need correcting!

  16. matt says:

    @Ryan: Ah I wondered if you ever had to show your military ID or not.. Thanks for sharing.

    @dj: Yes I know that but I wondered if he ever actually had to so far as to show h is ID.

  17. Kenneth says:

    I bet this Cpl. Is a Gaurdsman or Reservist. In AR-670-1 it states that a soldier on active duty is not suppose to speak in public rallies unless given permission. Im taking a educated guess that he is a Reservist or Gaurdsman, consdiering there are no active Garrison or TRADOC military installions in Iowa. There are only Gaurd and Reserve bases and they do not live the everyday life of an active duty soldier. They are strictly support for their unit (finance, supply, etc). This soldeir might be AGR (Active gaurd/Reserve) at most. They are’nt exactly considered real Army. Regardless, AR-670-1 states that you are not suppose to have visible tatoos, speak in public rallies etc. The soldier is out of line and should get his Cpl (E-4) status taken away and be demoted to Pvt. (E-1). Its a shame this soldier is not in the real Army because this never would have happend. If this incident did happen while a soldier was on Active Army status, the soldier would have been handled immediatley. His intentions were good but he was out of line and broke the Army Regulations. This sets a terrble example to the Jr. enlisted soldiers. As a CPL. He should know better.

  18. Kenneth says:

    I am reading the comments and I can tell who is military and who is not. For those of you who are not military. You can use all the examples from 1900 to current. You can ask this and ask that but when it comes down to it the Army has rules and regulations. Period. As soldiers we should/or know these regulations. He should have known better and if he didn’t then that tells the type of soldiers he is and also reflects on the leadership in his unit. I read a comment that this soldier has been in the Army for over 10 years. This should give you an idea of the ignorance/discipline this soldier has. I also read that this soldier is a Reservist or Guardsman. I believe it. I was in the Reserves in Des Moines, IA. There is no military bearing and the leadership has little knowledge. When I decided to get out of the Reserves to go active duty I saw a world of difference. I have learned so much since being in the Active Army.
    The Cpl (E-4) in from Ankeny, a suburb of Des moines. He did not represent himself, the uniform or the Army in the propler way. Especially with the obvious tattoo on his neck. The Reservist or Guardsman units need to sit all of there soldiers down on their 1 weekend a month and go over the AR’s (Army regulations). Its not like they do much on the weekend anyway so this will give them something to do and prevent this from happening again.

  19. Kenneth says:

    I had talked to a friend of mine back in Des Moines, IA. He was in the Iowa National Gaurd and is in the Army Reserve now. He is a combat engineer in the Army Reserves, a weeekend warrior. So what he did and the ignorance or not knowing any better all makes sense now. I read that because he is in the Reserves (weekend warrior) that he is not on Active duty status and there will be no disciplinary action. Even if there was the fact that he is in the Reserves tells me that very little would happen to him. Too bad he isnt in the active Army. He would never hear the end of it and with that neck tatoo, it would be very easy for other soldeirs to call him out. It is a good thing he is not active Army.

  20. Mike says:

    That is just plain stupidity, but what do you expect from an E-4 (I can’t bring myself to say Corporal) with 10 years in. He needs to lose a grade.

    On the other hand, I left the Army in ’92. I was a Pathfinder in the 506th. I retired from the National guard 2 years ago, and I had more trigger time in the Guard than active duty. Tell me to my face I am a weekend warrior, or support. My last tour in Iraq, 63% of boots on ground were Guard and Reserve, and because of them, the active duty got their dwell time in the States.

  21. Bill says:

    @Kenneth: tattoo??? That was the least of it. How about the tongue piercing??? Yeah, go back and watch the video. This guy is a train wreck.