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Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

His Former Commander Exposes Ryan Zinke’s Navy SEAL Career and Defective “Moral Make-up”

There have long been rumors about Senator Ryan Zinke’s tendency to both exaggerate his role as a Navy SEAL and to underplay the serious ethical violations that derailed his career, but given the privacy afforded those records, it’s always been difficult to detail the truth about Zinke’s career in the military.

Captain Larry Bailey, who commanded Zinke while he was in his SEAL class, recently wrote a letter detailing some of the problems with Zinke’s military career. What Bailey argues is what many of us who have watched Zinke’s career have also seen: “he is willing to do whatever it takes to reach the next level.”

In short, Bailey argues that Zinke misused Navy funds for personal travel and has inflated the importance of his role in Navy SEAL Team Six. Bailey writes, “He was never a commanding officer and was bypassed for possible consideration for promotion to captain as the result of his travel transgressions.”

No one here has questioned the value of Senator Zinke’s service to his nation in the military, but his tendency to inflate his own role and promote himself at the expense of the truth and even basic decency, has been the defining element of his political career.

Captain Bailey’s letter follows:

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


If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Sounds like a typical demo-rat hit piece, demo-rat doesn’t have any redeeiming value so make their competition look bad, even with low level BS. I’m sending Zinke a donation.

    • you are the typical illiterate rube vermin that jumps on with the rising scum which deems to be floating to the top.

    • LOL, typical fool of a trumplican – it’s your money – throw it way on yet another grifter, it’s your choice and the privilege that comes from being an American.

  • This Zinke guy is now associated with and supporting the Southeastern Legal Foundation, an ultra-conservative law-firm in GA. This Foundation is sending out solicitations for donations in their fight against anything contrary to their beliefs. My 94 year old father, a WWII decorated veteran, received one of these solicitations with Zinke’s photo and credits; U.S. Congressman, U.S. Navy Seal, Commander at Seal Team Six, etc. I am appalled and disgusted at the lengths various organizations will stoop for the almighty $$$. Every American including our elderly and our veterans are being preyed upon every day. My dad gets a daily stack of thirty or forty solicitations! I’m sure some are legit, but many are just a bunch of worthless scams!

    • Proud Dad,

      I’d be very interested in seeing the Zinke – Southeastern Legal Foundation solicitation mailer. I’m a contributor at this site and would like to do a follow-up piece.

      Please leave contact me at the comment section here:

      And we’ll discuss a way to connect. This story deserves additional coverage. Thanks,


  • Greetings from Kalispell – we purchased several of yoru books for Christmas presents…We would like to get them signed. Can I get any information about a book signing here. We talked to you at the Brewery for a meet and greet and Lola also said there would be a book signing. I know your world has changes – and congratulations. If it is at all possible to get these books signed, will you please email us.

  • While reading this piece, I reflected back to when Dan Rather’s sterling reputation as a real journalist ended when he did a story on George W. Bush’s military service during Vietnam. For those with short memories, the story was centered on a letter purported to have been written by Bush’s Commanding Officer at the time. Turns out that Rather and his team were in such a hurry to discredit President Bush, they had not vetted the letter or the source of the letter. It seems that it was a FAKED LETTER. I have to laugh seeing Dan Rather is finally “back” as a reporter of sorts on MSNBC.
    Having said this, I believe the writer and this publication needs to have the letter scanned and attached to the article along with vetting the source of the letter.
    This is a serious charge made by the writer and if it is real, not a smear tactic, then more information to support the claims should be made available.

  • If CAPT Bailey’s letter is truthful and genuine then has he or has he not gone on record to defend his allegations? If not, would love to see him do so.

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