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Controversy About Ryan Zinke, Montana Candidate For Congress

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Montana Shooting Sports Association

Missoula, MT --( Unless you’ve been camped in the Bob Marshall Wilderness for a month, you’ve been exposed to the heated campaign in the Republican Primary for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

New information has come to light about candidate Ryan Zinke. Let me recap the race first.

Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) graded the candidates based on voting records and their returned MSSA Candidate Questionnaires.  MSSA graded Elise Arntzen as an A+ (the + because she’s carried one or more bills for MSSA), Corey Stapleton and Matt Rosendale both as an A, all based on 100% voting records with MSSA.  MSSA graded Ryan Zinke as a B based on his voting record, and Drew Turiano as a B based on his Candidate Questionnaire.

There have been some questions about the military record of Ryan Zinke.  Why did he retire as an O4 (officer, fourth grade) when most career military officers with distinguished records get to higher rank before retirement?  What about the claims made about Zinke’s actual service?  How about his Bronze Stars for work that appears to have been largely administrative?

Former Navy SEAL and author of Enemies Foreign and Domestic ( ), Matt Bracken, has long been a corresponding friend of mine.  Months ago I contacted Matt to ask if he could confirm some of the things said then about Zinke’s military career.  Matt could not come up with any information at the time.

Then, just days ago, former Republican state senator and former candidate for Governor Ken Miller circulated an email about Zinke from Larry Bailey, CAPT (SEAL), USN (Ret.).

I sent this email to Bracken and asked what he made of it.  His concise response was, “I vouch 100 percent for Capt Larry Bailey; I don’t know Zinke from Adam.”

Only because of Matt’s recommendation, I’ve pasted the email from Captain Bailey below.  It’s worth reading.

One more thing related to Ryan Zinke and the RKBA.  When Zinke was in the Legislature, he and I had two or three spirited conversations wherein he voiced the strong opinion that .50 caliber rifles are far too dangerous for civilians to be allowed to own.  He felt very strongly about that then.  Then, about the time he announced his candidacy for the U.S. House, he sent me a card saying he’d changed his position on .50 caliber rifles.  Yes, a sudden, election season conversion.

Finally, I’ve discussed all of this extensively with my oldest son who recently retired from a 30-some-year career in the Army Special Forces.  We agree that, as military veterans and patriotic Americans, we’d prefer to take Zinke at face value.  Alas, given the new information about Zinke, we can no longer do that.  My son’s Special Forces friends now lump Zinke into a category of people they call “posers.”

Feel free to share this with your friends who have not voted.

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana



By: Larry Bailey


It is most unpleasant to write these words, as I have long considered myself a friend of Ryan Zinke.  In fact, he was in the first Basic UDT/SEAL (BUD/S) class to graduate under my command in 1985.  I remember him well and thought that he would have a stellar career.

He did have such a career until he showed a defect in his moral make-up, and the Left is already well aware of what he did, although perhaps not in so much detail as I go into.  They will, however, before the general election, so I have decided to anticipate them by providing this statement.

This information was provided to me by sources personally known to me and to those who were directly involved in the actions involving Ryan.

What did he do?  Simple—he used Navy (taxpayer) travel funds to make multiple trips from Norfolk, VA, to his home in MT, ostensibly to scout out training sites for his squadron.  The truth was that he went to work on some family property and, apparently, on one occasion, took two or three other Navy SEALs with him.

These trips not only involved airfare, but they also involved per diem and personal use of Navy time.  To his credit, Ryan, when confronted with his transgressions, admitted his culpability and paid back the funds he had expended.

Ryan’s moral failings, in my opinion, do not end with his being separated from his SEAL team over the travel scandal.  His political career has some questionable acts associated with it, to include his creation (with some heavy-hitting New York and Boston lawyers and PR people) of Special Operations for America (SOFA), a Political Action Committee, back in early 2012.  At that time, I sought out Ryan to work with me in establishing an umbrella organization of Special Operations Forces from all the services.

After looking carefully at the situation in which he was involved, I just didn’t feel comfortable getting hooked up with what was clearly going to be a high-donor operation and possibly geared to Ryan’s future political benefit.  That has turned out to be the case, as evinced by the fact that, almost immediately after Ryan declared his candidacy for the US House, he resigned as SOFA’s chairman and was given a grant from the very Political Action Committee he established.  That, to me, is not “conflict of interest;” it is “coincidence of interest.”

The account of what I have read about SOFA having its headquarters in property owned by the Zinke family that is across the street from the Zinke family home, further validates the “coincidence of interest” hypothesis.

As a retired Navy SEAL officer, I also take exception to the looseness with which Ryan described his Navy career.  Depending on which bio one reads, he was “a” or “the” commander in a certain high-capability Navy SEAL Team.  He was never a commanding officer and was bypassed for possible consideration for promotion to captain as the result of his travel transgressions.

He also has stated that former Cong. Allen West has endorsed his candidacy.  I spoke with Colonel West personally and learned that, while he spoke kind words about Ryan, he did not endorse him.  Subsequent to my conversation with him, Colonel West has made clear that that was not the case and will not be the case during the primary.

Having seen a heavily redacted copy of Ryan’s DD-214, which is a summary of his military career, I noted that, unlike his claim to have received two Bronze Stars for combat, he actually received them for meritorious service.  Neither had the Combat “V” for Valor, which would have been the case had he earned the awards for combat.

The statement by a retired Navy SEAL Master Chief sums up the essence of Ryan’s character.  The man told me personally that Ryan is PNG (persona non grata) at his old SEAL team, primarily for the misleading statements he has made about his rank and importance at that “special” team.  That is a sad commentary on a man who had all the potential in the world and has, instead of coming clean about himself and his mistakes, tries to re-write his personal history in order to achieve political office.

I am certain that Ryan would have acquitted himself well if he had led his men in actual combat instead of being a theater manager of the combat units assigned to him.

I am sure that Ryan will do his best to rebut these serious allegations.  He can prove me wrong by making his unredacted DD-214 available for public examination.  I would like nothing better than to have been shown that I was wrong, but that won’t happen.

Why do I, a transplanted Texan living in NC, want to rupture more than one friendship over Ryan Zinke’s candidacy for the US House of Representatives?  Simple—Ryan’s ambitions will not stop here.  He has shown by his dissimulation of facts regarding his career that he is willing to do whatever it takes to reach the next level—in his case, the US Senate.  I cannot abide that prospect, because THEN he is representing ME and every citizen of this land as a member of one of the world’s most prestigious deliberative bodies.

Larry Bailey
Chocowinity, NC

Gary Marbut, presidentMontana Shooting Sports Association
author,Gun Laws of Montana

About Montana Shooting Sports Association:MSSA is the primary political advocate for Montana gun owners. Visit:


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