EXCLUSIVE: Dem Operative Who Sought GOP Candidates’ Military Records Also Requested Sen. Duckworth’s File, Army Says

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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  • Due Diligence Group successfully obtained service records for Democratic Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Army spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • Due Diligence is the same group to which the Air Force improperly disclosed military personnel files of Republican candidates in the 2022 midterm election cycle. 
  • The Democratic House and Senate campaign committees paid thousands to Due Diligence between 2021 and 2022.

A Democratic campaign-serving opposition research group requested military service records for Democratic Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Army National Guard veteran who stood for reelection during the 2022 midterm cycle, the Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

The Army disclosed Duckworth’s personnel file in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted in December 2021, an Army spokesperson told the DCNF. The records did not appear to be improperly released, a contrast to revelations that the Air Force notified Republican candidates for 2022 congressional seats it improperly disclosed their personnel records to a person posing as a background investigator for the Democratic-aligned Due Diligence Group.

“We located one request from the Due Diligence Group. As required by law the U.S. Army Human Resources Command provided service information for U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth in response to this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request,” Army spokesperson Matt Leonard told the DCNF.

Political opposition research firm Due Diligence submitted the FOIA request on Dec. 5, 2021, Army spokesperson Madison Bonzo subsequently confirmed to the DCNF, saying that the Army released “appropriate” records in response. (RELATED: The GOP Is Already Tangling Over Who Should Run In 2024)

It remains unclear why Due Diligence would have requested personnel files for Duckworth, a retired Army National Guard Lt. Col. serving in the Senate for Illinois since 2017. She beat her Republican challenger in November.

Sen. Duckworth’s office did not respond to multiple attempts spanning several days to get in touch.

The incident breaks from what else is known regarding service members’ records release to Due Diligence, which is implicated in the improper disclosure of military service records for several GOP House candidates, including some sitting members, in the Nov. 2022 election.

The Air Force has alerted several Republican candidates for 2022 midterm seats that Abraham Payton of Due Diligence “inappropriately requested” their service records, including Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska and Rep. Zach Nunn of Iowa, according to Politico.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Troy Dunn informed Bacon the service made an unauthorized release of his service records to Due Diligence after Payton used the congressman’s social security number to file multiple requests in a letter obtained by Politico.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the service disclosed the records of at least 11 different people to Due Diligence, handing over the case to the Department of Justice, Bacon told Politico. It remains unclear whether the DOJ has launched an inquiry into the incident.

The discovery came as the result of an internal investigation conducted on the records release process from October 2021 October 2022, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told the DCNF, after Jennifer Ruth-Green’s military personnel file was leaked to Politico, according to the outlet.

“Virtually all” of the requests were made by an individual “who represented himself as a background investigator seeking service records for employment purposes,” she said.

The same firm filed at least one other records request to the Army, according to a copy of the Standard Form 180 obtained by Politico and dated Aug. 12, 2022. Payton unsuccessfully sought the personnel file of then-GOP candidate Colin Schmitt, who failed in his bid for a House seat and still serves as a sergeant in the Army National Guard, according to his campaign website.

Standard Form 180 requests can only unlock personnel files for military veterans, not currently serving members, according to the National Archives and Records Administration.

Payton listed his relationship to Schmitt as a “background investigation analyst” and said the request would help determine Schmitt’s eligibility for employment and related benefits, the form shows.

Bacon and Nunn have called for an investigation into whether Democratic political opposition funds went to illegal research, according to Politico.

“The recent targeting of Members of Congress’s personnel military records [and] the breach of sensitive data … taken by political hacks isn’t only a violation of public trust — it’s criminal,” Nunn said.

Due Diligence conducts political opposition research, including “public records research to provide our clients with the knowledge and insights needed to drive strategic decision making,” according to their website.

The House Majority PAC told Politico it had no role in the 2022 election cycle, suggesting that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) may have financed activities that led to the unauthorized releases. Due Diligence received $110,000 between January 2021 and December 2022 from the DCCC, according to publicly-available Federal Election Commission filings.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee paid Due Diligence on 20 separate occasions between August 2021 and December 2022, according to FEC filings. The DSCC’s Republican counterpart did not employ Due Diligence over the same time period, FEC records show.

Due Diligence does not list contact information on its website. The DCNF submitted questions through an online contact form on the site and reached out using the information listed on the Standard Form 180 but did not receive any responses.

The Navy and Marine Corps directed the DCNF to FOIA.

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