With many jobs what you do in your spare time usually isn’t a problem – provided of course that those hobbies and interests are legal. However, in recent years some individuals seeking higher office have had their hobbies – not their stance on issues – cast in the spotlight.
Back in 2010 Rich Iott, a Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio‘s 9th District, was a Tea Party favorite and seemed on his way to Washington. That is until photos surfaced of him in a World War II German Waffen SS uniform. Iott was not old enough to have been in the actual Waffen SS, but rather was in a World War II re-enactment group.
Iott, who was also a member of the Ohio Military Reserve at the time, claimed he was really interested in history and that his involvement with the re-enactment group Wiking Division was purely apolitical. He tried to clarify that the SS unit mainly fought against the Soviet Red Army – not the U.S. or British. Still, in the end Iott lost the election, much like Nazi Germany lost World War II.
Working the WoW Crowd
In the 2012 election cycle Colleen Lachowitz, a Democratic state senate candidate in Maine, managed to win her race for office, but it was her devotion to the video game World of Warcraft and comments that she made as her “half-orc” alter-ego “Santiaga” that drew some headlines in the lead up to election day. Her rival called attention to her gaming habit, but in the end Lachowitz successfully was able to call upon Maine gamers. They may have actually helped put her over the top in a close election that she reportedly won by as little as 900 votes.
It isn’t just politicians who have been scrutinized for their connection to video games. At the same time that Lachowitz was likely celebrating her win by crushing heads in WoW, seven U.S. Navy SEALs were being reprimanded for providing classified information to video game publisher Electronic Arts All seven had worked as paid consultants, and it was reported that at least one of the SEALs was on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year earlier.
All work and no play
The question becomes how such “diverse” interests that people have – and the fact that these interests are so widely shared on social media and on Internet forums and chat rooms – are now considered when security clearance comes into play.
“I could envision a hobby causing potential problems,” said attorney Mark S. Zaid, who specializes in issues related to security clearance.
However, there would need to be a specific concern.
“So long as the hobby itself doesn’t involve illegal behavior or expose the person to unnecessary foreign risks or financial risks, I can’t envision its being an issue,” added Bradley P. Moss, senior associate at the Law Office of Mark S. Zaid, P.C.
What would be an issue would be “any hobby that that calls into question your reliability or loyalty to the United States,” warned Christopher Burgess, CEO of Prevendra, a security consultancy. “Or allow you to become emotionally involved with a foreign national.”
In other words most hobbies – even those that involve a bit of “role play” either virtually or with real costumes might not be an issue. When it comes to reliving history, however, who won matters.
“I could see that dressing up in a Confederate uniform could become a problem,” said Greg T. Rinckey, founding partner of the Tully Rinckey law firm. “It would depend on the extremes you are taking, of course. When you have a re-enactment of a battle someone has to the play the ‘bad guys,’ but do you leave it at that or are you someone who flies the Confederate battle flag over your house? If it is bleeding into your lifestyle it could be a problem.”
Playing dress up for a stage event is one thing, but wearing military garb for the end days could end the chances of getting security clearance.
“We’ve seen guys or gals that are in state militias and that can be an issue,” added Rinckey. “There are states that have actual militias that are legitimate organizations tied to the state, but then there are these independent militias, and being a part of one of those could be a real issue.”
This is especially true of any group that advocates the overthrow of the government – obviously.
“There are some of those groups that are really ‘preppers’ or ‘survivalists’ and there it is a thin line,” warned Rinckey. “Stock piling of weapons and preparing for the end of days isn’t going to go over well.”
The final type of “hobby” that could cause problems is of the variety that has ended many a promising political career – namely one of a sexual nature.
“If you can call being a swinger a hobby, that would certainly be an issue,” said Rinkey. “Anything sexual in nature would open you up to embarrassment – or worse. Blackmail would be a major problem.”
In other words watch what you wear – or don’t wear – if your clearance is on the line!