Jefferson Burton violates Defense Department rules in Utah campaign ad

(Courtesy photo) Photo of campaign mailer sent by Jefferson Burton that violates Department of Defense rules about campaign materials using photos of a candidate in full uniform and a required disclaimer.

Jefferson Burton — the former Utah National Guard commander who now leads the Utah Department of Health’s COVID-19 efforts — acknowledges his legislative campaign ran afoul of Defense Department rules that ban featuring photos of him in full uniform. He offers an unusual explanation.

“The problem my campaign manager has is there’s not a picture of me not in uniform, and it’s kind of a challenge,” he said.

The Salt Lake Tribune raised questions whether a mailer sent by Burton in his campaign for House District 66 in southern Utah County violates a Department of Defense (DOD) directive. Burton acknowledged that it does.

“It was unintentional and I certainly don’t want to violate DOD protocol because I love DOD,” he told The Tribune. “So thanks for bringing it to my attention and we’ll take care of it.”

Burton recently mailed a postcard that shows him in full uniform to the side of a headline that says, “Retired Major General Jeff Burton.” Bullet points note his service in the National Guard, a master’s degree from the U.S. Army War College and three decades of “active service” status.

The trouble is, a Defense Department directive bans even retired military members who run for office from using pictures of themselves in uniform “as the primary graphic representation in any campaign media,” including flyers.

It allows their use as secondary photos and permits mention of military information in campaign materials — but they “must be accompanied by a prominent and clearly displayed disclaimer that neither the military information nor photographs imply endorsement by the Department of Defense.”

Burton’s flyer had no such disclaimer and Burton said he was unaware of that rule.

“It’s not a statute. But still I would want to follow that,” he said. “I can’t call back the one that was sent, but I will fix all future correspondence.”

He said he pulled back another mailer that was about to be printed to change it and include the required disclaimer.

Republican Burton is facing Woodland Hills City Council member Kari Malkovich in the June 30 GOP primary in a race to replace Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, who is running for the state Senate.

The winner of that primary essentially wins the overall race because no Democrat nor minor party candidate filed in the race.