2 former House GOP candidates alerted to improper requests for Air Force records

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Peters and Dellicker are the fourth and fifth known recipients of Air Force letters regarding the records releases, which have sparked an investigation by House Republicans. They are joining Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Zach Nunn (R-Iowa) in seeking an additional investigation of any illegal activity that may have occurred surrounding the requests for their military records, a push first reported by POLITICO on Tuesday.

Specifically, the affected Republicans want to know what role, if any, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and their Democratic challengers played in receiving and using information that the Air Force improperly disclosed.

“Look, you sanction a hitman to kill somebody, you’re guilty of a crime. You sanction somebody to steal, you’re guilty of a crime,” Peters said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “And the DCCC needs to be [held to account], and I fully intend on making sure they are.”

The House Democratic campaign arm did not return a request for comment on whether it received and used materials provided by Due Diligence Group during the 2022 midterms. According to Federal Election Commission records, the DCCC paid Due Diligence just over $110,000 between January 2021 and December 2022.

The Air Force has identified 11 people in total as affected by the “unauthorized release of military duty information.” That number includes Bacon, Nunn, Peters, Dellicker and former House GOP candidate Jennifer-Ruth Green of Indiana.

Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said the military branch launched an internal audit after POLITICO reported on Green’s records in October. Green has confirmed that her records were released to Due Diligence.

POLITICO was told by the person who gave it Green’s military records that they were obtained through a public records request. POLITICO reviewed the request for the records made by a third party, which sought a “publicly releasable/redacted copy of OMPF [Official Military Personnel File] per Freedom of Information Act statutes.” The requester identified the purpose of the request as relating to “benefits,” “employment” and “other.”

POLITICO also reviewed the letter sent in response to the requester. A military employee responded with a password-protected version of the file with limited redactions. After publication, the Air Force said it erred in releasing the records and launched an investigation.

Air Force letters sent to Bacon, Peters and Dellicker this month state that Payton was already in possession of their Social Security numbers when he sought their records. The letters further state that the released records included the Republicans’ personal information without their authorization, which is “protected under the Privacy Act of 1974.”

In the case of Peters, the Air Force letter informed him that a specific form from his record known as DD Form 214 was released in February 2022 and that roughly three weeks later, his military personnel records were released to Payton. Dellicker’s letter notified him that his DD form 214 was released to Payton in February 2022.

Bacon said in an interview that Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has referred the results of its internal review to the Justice Department, which declined to comment on whether an investigation is underway.

“This social engineering trick that [Payton] pulled was made more credible because according to the Air Force, he already had my Social Security number. Now, the Air Force still isn’t supposed to release this information without my signature,” Dellicker said in an interview.

The unauthorized release of Dellicker’s Air Force records was first reported by LehighValleyNews.com.

Stefanek, the Air Force spokesperson, has said that “virtually all” of the 11 unapproved releases were made to the same third party “who represented himself as a background investigator seeking service records for employment purposes.”

It is unclear if Green’s records were released to Payton or another individual employed by Due Diligence, whose website states that it uses “public records research to provide our clients with the knowledge and insights needed to drive strategic decision making.” It is also unclear how many of the 11 improper disclosure requests that the Air Force identified were initiated by Payton.

Due Diligence did not respond to requests for comment. Payton, whom POLITICO attempted to reach at an email address connected to the firm, did not respond to a request for comment.

House Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers and Oversight Committee Chair James Comer asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in their letter last week for the full list of people affected by improper records disclosures.

The House GOP duo also sought details on any actions — “administrative or punitive” — taken against those involved in the unauthorized release, and whether any criminal referrals have taken place regarding the matter.

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( With inputs from : www.politico.com )

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