Memorial Day mistake: Did Lake Ray violate Department of Veterans Affairs’ rules?

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ray lakeOf late, the Twitter account of Rep. Lake Ray. a Republican candidate in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, has been laden with veterans-friendly messages.

Yet one since-deleted and revised Tweet from Saturday morning (which also shows up on his Facebook page) seems to have run afoul of a clearly-defined rule set forth by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration.

In its posted rules, the National Cemetery Administration, in what was clearly a bid to ensure that the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans who died in battle weren’t exploited for political purposes, established the following dictum.

“Political activities, including the filming of campaign ads, are not permitted on cemetery grounds.”

Ray’s Twitter account’s avatar includes a graphic of a yard sign, with the message “Paid for by Lake Ray for Congress,” which seemingly delineated the explicit intent of utilizing the shots of Ray posing by tombstones in a veteran’s cemetery for electioneering purposes.

Ray is not the only politician to flout the guidelines of the National Cemetery Administration.

In 2014, a North Dakota Republican filmed a 30 second spot highlighting “his outrage over mismanagement at the Department of Veterans Affairs,” reported the Huffington Post.

In 2012, a California Republican employed the same tactic, reported the San Diego Union-Tribune.

When asked for comment, Ray’s campaign offered the following written statement.

“I was simply honoring the servicemen and women who had paid the ultimate price for our country, which is the reason for this weekend. Making any more of it is grasping at straws, it was not a political statement. I hope everyone takes the time this weekend to thank the veterans in their lives, I’m especially thankful for my son, an active duty veteran,” Ray wrote.

Meanwhile, Ray’s campaign has deleted the pictures in the Tweet above, offering an amended memorial Tweet Saturday afternoon: “Had a great morning honoring our veterans at the National Cemetery. My son Lake is a veteran & his Great-Uncle is buried there.”

Before the Tweet with the cemetery pictures was deleted, criticism came from one rival campaign.

Brian Hughes, a spokesman for Conservatives United, a federal PAC that has indicated its support for Sheriff John Rutherford, offered this statement Saturday about Ray’s original Tweet in response to an inquiry from FloridaPolitics.com.

“Federal law is clear; politicians are prohibited from exploiting images of the fallen in a campaign. As a veteran I find it especially offensive to see this during a holiday weekend meant to honor the heroes who served and died.”

A.G. Gancarski has written a weekly column for Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly since 2003. His writings on politics, culture, and sport have appeared in the Washington Times, the Daily Caller, and the American Conservative. His radio and TV appearances include frequent contributions to WJCT-FM (Jacksonville’s Public Radio station); additionally, he has been a guest on Huff Post Live and the Savage Nation radio show. Gancarski can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.