IOWA CITY, Iowa – Ron Paul's presidential campaign did not return repeated Army inquiries seeking information about the political activities of a reservist who endorsed Paul in uniform at an Iowa rally, according to Army documents released Tuesday.
Records released to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act detail the investigation of Jesse D. Thorsen, who was reprimanded in March for violating policies barring soldiers from participating in political events while in uniform. The case was slowed, in part, because the investigator could not reach Paul aides in Iowa despite what he described as numerous calls, phone messages and voice mails spanning weeks, records show.
"Multiple attempts were made to contact the Ron Paul campaign. Further time was requested to seek out a response. Despite multiple attempts, no one from the campaign responded to my inquiries," investigator Bradley Borgos, of the Dubuque, Iowa-based 389th Engineering Combat Battalion, wrote in a memorandum titled: "Delays."
A Paul campaign spokesman said he was looking into the matter and had no immediate comment Tuesday. Paul, a Texas congressman, continues his presidential bid even though Mitt Romney is the all-but-certain GOP nominee.
Thorsen, who is with a Des Moines-based unit, showed up in his military fatigues to the Paul campaign's caucus night celebration Jan. 3. There, he gave a live interview with CNN saying he supported Paul's noninterventionist foreign policy. Paul later called him to the stage where Thorsen said "we don't need to be picking fights overseas," called Paul a rock star and urged supporters to organize on Paul's behalf.
The Army launched an investigation, which was expanded to look at Thorsen's background after news reports showed he was arrested in connection with breaking into a home in Florida in 2004.
The documents show Borgos recommended Thorsen be reprimanded, and that his commanders bar him from re-enlisting when his contract expires because of the violation and criminal history. Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Matthew Baker agreed to the reprimand but rejected further discipline.
Thorsen said he wore his uniform to the Paul event because he was told to look nice and he "couldn't think of a more dignified piece of clothing to wear," Borgos wrote.
Thorsen said he was whisked away by aides to meet the candidate during the rally and Paul unexpectedly summoned him to the stage minutes later. After speaking, Thorsen said he was surprised to learn from a member of the crowd who identified himself as an Army sergeant that what he did was a violation.
"I am also surprised that Ron Paul, an Air Force Officer and congressman of many years or his advisors who told me they too served in the military, would not have explained to me that wearing my uniform was in violation of regulation," Thorsen said in a sworn statement.
Thorsen said Tuesday via e-mail he understood why Paul aides did not cooperate with the investigation given the campaign's busy schedule. He called the case "cut and dry" because of videos showing him speaking at the event.
Borgos was appointed to investigate, among other things, the extent of Thorsen's involvement with Paul's campaign before caucus night and whether any activities violated military rules. He wrote he wanted to contact Paul's campaign aides in Iowa to interview anyone who worked with Thorsen previously or invited him to the rally.
Borgos wrote that he made numerous attempts but the campaign "did not return my phone calls and voice mails." In one final effort, he said he spoke with a woman who identified herself as "Sara" who said "she would speak to someone on the staff who would call me back to assist in the investigation."
"No one from the Ron Paul campaign staff has since called me back, and further attempts to call them have gone unanswered," Borgos wrote, nine days later.