Who is Derrick Van Orden? GOP candidate allegedly used campaign cash for Jan 6 DC trip
Report finds Orden bankrolled his January trip to DC with campaign finances, may have been at the Capitol during the insurrection
As a former Navy SEAL, actor, author, and politician Derrick Van Orden wears many hats. Despite losing a bid to represent Wisconsin in Congress, Orden has once again thrown his hat into the ring to run for Congress. However, that's not why he's currently in the headlines. According to The Daily Beast, Orden was inside restricted areas of the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection and bankrolled his trip with campaign finances.
The January 6 insurrection continues to divide the US, with Republicans adamant that it did not happen. Despite public pressure, several corporations like Toyota are still funding the GOP, inspiring backlash on social media. Yet, there are around 36 Republicans running for reelection in 2022, who have openly embraced conspiracy theories and backed Trump. The party has gone all-in on the 'big lie', voting to replace Liz Cheney with Elise Stefanik as Conference chair.
Campaign finances have also become a major talking point. Back in April, we reported how grocery chain Publix reportedly donated to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in exchange for a vaccine rollout. The Beast has now found that Orden may have also violated campaign finance laws, by using donations to fund his personal trip to DC.
Who is Derrck Van Orden?
A Wisconsin native, Orden graduated from Excelsior College. He served as a Navy SEAL between 1998 and 2014. His campaign website says he was first deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina following the signing of the Dayton Accords. He has also served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Europe, South and Central America. In 2012, he was responsible for planning Special Operations contingency operations in Europe. Orden retired as Senior Chief.
In 2015, he published a rather controversial book 'Book of Man: A Navy SEAL’s Guide to the Lost Art of Manhood'. In it, he defends an incident where he exposed a male lieutenant’s scrotum to two female officers. He called it "medical treatment" but was slammed by veterans as "sexual harassment". He also acted in three films -- 'Act of Valour' (2012), 'Surviving the Wild' (2018), and 2015 short 'Azadah'.
In 2017, Orden turned to business opening The Butternut Cafe in Downtown Butternut. He then began pursuing a degree in law, before switching to politics. In March 2020, he announced his candidacy to replace Rep. Ron Kind, but that never came to be. Kind kept his seat with 51% of the vote, but that hasn't thrown Orden off. He announced his bid to run again in 2022 but could be in trouble over his involvement on January 6.
Orden uses funds for DC trip
The Daily Beast reported that Orden visited Washington DC on January 6, to which he even conceded. Orden however, denies being involved in the riots that day. In a January 13 op-ed, Orden said he visited DC for "meetings and to stand for the integrity of our electoral system as a citizen". He added, "At no time did I enter the grounds, let alone the building." Orden didn't specify the nature of those meetings, nor did he reply to The Beast's emails. However, an image on Facebook shows him on the grounds of the Capitol from the day.
"The Daily Beast recreated the photo on Friday and confirmed that Van Orden would have had to cross police barricades to reach that area," the outlet wrote. MEAWW couldn't find any further images of Orden at the Capitol from the day, nor has he been implicated by the FBI yet. It is unclear when that photo was taken, but it appears to still be up since The Beast's report. The publication also noted that in a Facebook Live video, one of Orden's friends said he was meeting him "on the wall", where he "got a great spot to watch." Together, the two indicate that he was present at some time during, or just after the insurrection.
Apart from his presence that day, The Beast also raised questions about how Orden paid for the trip. The publication reported he wrote off "roughly $4,000 in transportation and D.C. hotel costs around Jan. 6 for him, his wife, and a campaign staffer." According to campaign finance watchdog Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility (CREW), that could be illegal, since it was not a campaign-related activity. "If he did use his campaign to pay for travel for him and his staff to attend the rally-turned-insurrection, it would raise serious questions about his compliance with campaign finance laws," CREW's Communications Director Jordan Libowitz told The Beast.
Orden is now running again, with endorsements from Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Stefanik. After a narrow defeat in 2020, both he and the GOP seem confident about overturning the seat, that Kind has held for over a decade.