Church said it is not uncommon for the VA to host speakers with partisan backgrounds. She noted that former senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.), who has campaigned for Kerry, spoke to top managers in June.
J. Ward Morrow, the union's assistant general counsel, said VA officials are guilty of bad judgment at the very least for inviting Cordier. "People know this guy is a very partisan character," Morrow said. "That would be like, 'Let's bring in Michael Moore to talk about how to talk to the media, and make everybody go see him.' "
Ken Cordier, a Vietnam War veteran and former POW, is featured in an anti-Kerry ad by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
McClain questioned why the union did not complain until more than a month after the incident. "We've got October 26 as the letter [at] the same time that AFGE is running around Oregon and several other states with radio campaigns against the VA and against this current administration. I think there is a motive here," he said.
The VA, in turn, has asked the special counsel to investigate VA employees' participation in two recent union-related events at VA facilities and a union radio ad.
On Wednesday, employees picketing at a VA facility in Seattle charged the administration with the "breaking of the nation's covenant with those who pledged their lives to their country," according to a summary of the complaint provided by Church. On Tuesday, union President John Gage spoke to union members at a VA facility in Portland, Ore., about "short-changing our nation's veterans," the VA said.
In the radio ad, two people identify themselves as VA employees and criticize the quality of VA health care.
VA officials declined to release a copy of the complaint.
We "believe it is blatant, political activity aimed at influencing not only member voting -- but general voting as well," Church said in an e-mail.
Morrow said union members have adhered to the law by criticizing the performance of the VA without calling for the election or defeat of any particular candidate or political party.