Hillary Clinton's email probe and Donald Trump's university trial might be getting more coverage, but another candidate faces her own legal problems this election cycle.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., will face a civil trial during the campaign season for allegedly retaliating against whistleblowers during her service as head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. A judge just set a tentative trial date for August.
Duckworth's campaign has called the lawsuit "politically motivated," but the case is actually seven years old, and was originally brought by a state civil servant with more than two decades on the job at a time when Duckworth was not running for office. State attorneys representing Duckworth and the agency have argued that Duckworth fired Christine Butler, who had worked for the state for 22 years, because of "insubordination," and not as punishment for complaining about a supervisor who was violating procedure. Duckworth was told she needed to follow disciplinary procedures in order to fire someone, so she reprimanded Butler and suspended her with pay.
Human resources secretary Denise Goins, who is also part of the lawsuit, said her complaints about the same supervisor were brushed aside. Duckworth allegedly told Goins to "do your job and keep your mouth shut."
Among other things, Butler and Goins say they were punished for drawing attention to the fact that acting administrator Patricia Simms was allowing unauthorized people to care for a veteran.
A judge dismissed the idea that the women's claims were "petty complaints by two malcontents," as Assistant Attorney General Deborah Barnes tried to argue on Duckworth's behalf. The judge also didn't buy Duckworth's claim that she was new to the state agency at the time and thus unfamiliar with the rules. (That is also maybe not a good defense for someone touting their leadership during a campaign for office) and that her previous military training led to her actions. She has accused Butler of becoming "angry and rude and physically being in my face."
Duckworth, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot who fought in the Iraq War, lost both of her legs and partial use of her right arm. She took her post at Illinois' VA after narrowly losing her first race for Congress in 2006. She was subsequently appointed to the federal VA by President Obama in 2009 and then elected in another suburban Chicago House district in 2012.
Duckworth's trial dovetails with ongoing troubles at Veterans Affairs departments across the country, many of which have involved accusations of retaliation against whistleblowers. In 2014, a scandal erupted over returning veterans waiting months or even years to be seen by doctors, many dying while they waited.
It's also a reminder that Democrats have two candidates running for major offices that are facing legal troubles. Republicans, it should be pointed out, also have a presidential candidate — presumptive nominee Donald Trump — facing a lawsuit for fraud due to the failed Trump University, which took tens of thousands of dollars from people hoping to learn how to buy and sell real estate like the New York businessman.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.