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Did Arrested Bachmann Aide Misrepresent His Military Record?

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AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta

Sanchez's lawyer, who is representing him in the theft case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the conflicts.

The Marines released the military service record matching Sanchez's name and age to TPM on Wednesday. It showed that he served from 1994 until 2002 and was stationed at Parris Island in South Carolina, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan and at American embassies in Manama, Bahrain and Tokyo, Japan, and bases in Quantico and Arlington, Va. The highest rank he achieved was that of sergeant, according to the records.

At some of Sanchez's public appearances, however, he was described as a Marine who had served in Iraq and Bosnia, and as having achieved the much higher rank of captain.

To be clear, there appears to be no evidence immediately available that Sanchez directly made false claims during his public appearances. The conflicts came when other people introduced him at events or described his history. But Sanchez appears to have done nothing to dispute these characterizations of him.

On May 26, 2007, for instance, Sanchez appeared at a Memorial Day rally hosted by the organization Rolling Thunder. He was introduced by former Armed Forces Vietnam Network radio broadcaster Chris Noel as having "served in Bosnia and the Middle East with the Marine Corps." However, the military personnel records provided to TPM do not show Sanchez as having ever served in Bosnia. At the rally, Sanchez did not refute Noel's statement about his service.

Six days after the rally, Sanchez appeared on Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" where anchor Jim Angle asked him and an Army soldier, "What is the biggest problem that you encountered on the ground in Iraq?" Sanchez discussed how Iraqi insurgents pose different challenges than past adversaries faced by American troops.

"You go out with a mission and all of that. You cannot plan on what the enemy is going to be doing. You have an expectation of what they're going to be doing. But you really have to adjust to your environment," Sanchez said.

However, the records provided to TPM by the Marines show no sign that Sanchez ever served in Iraq.

During the Fox News appearance, Angle referred to Sanchez as a captain. According to the records provided to TPM, the highest rank attained by Sanchez during his time in the Marines was sergeant, a far lower rank. By the time he was discharged from the Marines, the records show, his rank had dropped to lance corporal, one of the most junior positions in the Marines. Sanchez did not correct Angle when he was described as a captain on the broadcast.

When he appeared at the rally and on Fox News, Sanchez was working for the Armed Forces Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to providing "vital assistance to active-duty and retired military personnel, National Guard, Reserve Components and military families." According to a spokesperson for AFF, Sanchez was "dismissed" from the foundation the same month as his Fox appearance for "violating Foundation policies regarding public appearances that were not authorized by the Foundation and for misrepresenting his role within the Foundation." His attorney, David Benowitz, has disputed these allegations.

Congressional salary records show Sanchez began working on Capitol Hill in 2011, first as a legislative aide to Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and then as a senior legislative aide to Bachmann starting in January of this year. Neither Bachmann's office or Foxx's office have responded to requests for comment from TPM about why Sanchez's problems with his past employer did not emerge as an issue when he was hired. Bachmann and Foxx's offices did not immediately respond to requests about whether there were any indications Sanchez ever misrepresented his military service. Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Bachmann told the Associated Press that Sanchez was no longer with the congresswoman's office as of last Friday.

According to court documents, the U.S. Capitol Police installed a hidden camera and planted envelopes of cash in Bachmann's office after two thefts were reported there earlier this year. Sanchez was arrested last Thursday and charged with theft after his boss identified him as the person shown in surveillance footage taking the money-filled envelopes from the drawer of Bachmann's chief of staff. Sanchez and his attorney have both both denied he was responsible for the theft.

About The Author

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Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com