Dems call on Boehner to return money from former Nazi re-enactor

Republican nominee and Tea Party-backed candidate for Congress Rich Iott of Ohio (second from right) is pictured dressed in a German Waffen SS uniform. Iott, who participated in Nazi re-enactments as part of a group called Wiking, told The Atlantic that while he has been involved with the group for a number of years, his interest in Nazi Germany is "purely historical."
The Atlantic
Former Republican nominee and Tea Party-backed candidate for Congress Rich Iott of Ohio (second from right) is pictured dressed in a German Waffen SS uniform.
The Atlantic

Democrats on Tuesday called on House Speaker John Boehner to return campaign contributions from Rich Iott, a onetime Nazi re-enactor who launched an unsuccessful congressional bid in 2010.

In a statement, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said Boehner "should be ashamed of himself for accepting a contribution from someone he knows gets his kicks by pretending to be a Nazi."

"Clearly Boehner is so desperate for campaign cash or so removed from reality that he is accepting money from a Nazi enthusiast," said the DCCC's Jesse Ferguson in the statement.

A recent report by the Washington Jewish Week pointed to filings by the FEC showing that Boehner's PAC received $2,400 - the maximum donation amount - from Iott earlier this year.

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The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) also demanded that Boehner return the funds.

"One year after campaigning on behalf of House candidate and Nazi re-enactor Rich Iott, a report has surfaced indicating that Iott is a max-out donor to House Speaker John Boehner's political action committee," said NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris on Tuesday. "Boehner -- the most powerful Republican in America and the third person in the presidential succession line -- owes American Jews and WWII veterans an explanation as to how he can continue to associate himself with Iott, given his widely-known disturbing behavior."

He added: "For American Jews, Boehner's continued silence and inaction will demonstrate that the most powerful Republican in the country does not respect our community's sensitivities."

Iott came under the spotlight last year after the Atlantic's Joshua Green reportedthat Iott, who was part of the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" program, donned German Waffen SS uniforms for Nazi re-enactments, in which he participated with his son.

At the time, Iott told the Associated Press he was not a Nazi sympathizer, and had participated in the re-enactments as a way to educate the public. He said he had been active in the re-enactment group for three to four years, though he noted that his name may have been on the roster for longer than that. Iott also noted that he has participated in re-enactments of various natures - from World War I and II to the Civil War (in which he dressed as American soldiers from both sides) on and off for about 35 years.

"I don't see anything wrong about educating the public about events that happened," Iott said of the controversy. "And that's the whole purpose of historical re-enacting."

He added: "Never, in any of my re-enacting of military history, have I meant any disrespect to anyone who served in our military or anyone who has been affected by the tragedy of war, especially the Jewish Community."

Still, Iott's involvement in the re-enactments immediately drew fire from his opponent, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who was ultimately re-elected and remains the longest-serving Democratic woman in the House. (Recently, Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher announced he would be challenging Kaptur this time around.)

Boehner's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The NJDC on Wednesday also called on Republican Ohio Senate candidate State Treasurer Josh Mandel to return a donation from Iott.

Mandel received a $1,000 contribution from Iott and according to the Toledo Blade, his spokesman recently dismissed demands that he return the funds as a "a manufactured nonissue."

"As a Jewish elected official, Josh Mandel has a unique responsibility to make it clear that Rich Iott's past behavior is unacceptable and repugnant," said Harris. "The National Jewish Democratic Council purposefully waited for two months since Mandel's disturbing receipt of Iott's campaign contribution -- and weeks since mainstream media reports -- to give Mandel plenty of time to act responsibly and return the money."

Harris remarked that based on Mandel's spokesman's response to the matter, "it appears that the Mandel campaign does not understand how offensive it is for a person seeking elected office to be associated with someone who wore the Nazi uniform as a hobby."