Updated 10:37 p.m. Chicago time
WASHINGTON--Both men running for the Illinois Senate seat vacated by President Obama--GOP nominee Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer-- will be at the Arlington Heights Memorial Day Parade on Monday. This is Kirk's first public appearence since the story broke over the weekend that Kirk claimed to have been named "Intelligence Officer of the Year" when he was not.
Giannoulias is doing a press availability before the parade kicks off. After that, he is heading to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill. to join Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other state elected officials to hear President Obama deliver a Memorial Day address. Giannoulias was invited in his capacity as a state official--not as a candidate.
The Kirk campaign told me Sunday that Kirk would be in Arlington Heights. Later in the evening Kirk's government office issued a release stating Kirk--referred to as "U.S. Rep. and Navy Reserve intelligence officer Mark Kirk" would present medals "posthumously to the married relatives of two World War II veterans who served in Italy and Japan more than 60 years ago" in Memorial Park in the northwest suburb after the parade.
On Sunday night Kirk, playing defense, sent out an e-mail to supporters that focused as much on how the story came out--with a boost from the Giannoulias campaign--as on the gloss Kirk on his record as a commander in the Navy reserves. (See entire Kirk e-mail at the click)
Kirk campaign manager Eric Elk sent out a similar e-mail on Saturday night following the Washington Post story, published on Saturday. The Post broke the news that as the newspaper was looking into Kirk's record, Kirk on his campaign website put up this statement on May 27:
"Upon a recent review of my records, I found that an award listed in my official biography was misidentified as 'Intelligence Officer of the Year.' In fact . . . I was the recipient of the Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year award for outstanding support provided during Operation Allied Force," Kirk said. The award was given to his unit, not an individual."
The Washington Post said in its story it was prodded to look at Kirk's record by the Giannoulias camp, so there is no mystery on that point. The Chicago Sun-Times, Tribune and New York Times also has stories over the weekend about Kirk inaccurately claiming an award. The Associated Press report covers that and more.
It's not clear what prompted Kirk to start scrubbing his own website. A standard line on Kirk's various bios for years has been the boast of being "Intelligence officer" of the year in 1999 for his combat service in Kosovo. One example: Kirk on C-SPAN in 2002 (video above) mentioning the award.
On Sunday Kirk said in his e-mail, "The error was discovered last week by my staff. Going through my Fitness Reports for 1999/2000, we recognized that referring to an award as "Intelligence Officer of the Year" was not precise - so we corrected my biography with the official name of a very distinguished award that I am honored to have received."
It 's not clear if Kirk caught the inaccuracy, a staffer or someone else.
Below, e-mail from Rep. Mark Kirk....
My Navy Service Official Record Speaks for Itself
I was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy Reserve in 1989. I have now served 21 years. For the last 10 years, as a Member of Congress, I served without pay because I love the Navy, her duty, honor, country. In uniform, I served during conflicts with Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and Bosnia. I am proud of my service - it is the honor of my life to work with Americans who keep America safe.
Last week, I found that I misidentified a military award and corrected my biography. According to the Washington Post, their reporter worked with Alexi Giannoulias' campaign to write a story that turned out to be imprecise about the title of an award included in that biography.
The error was discovered last week by my staff. Going through my Fitness Reports for 1999/2000, we recognized that referring to an award as "Intelligence Officer of the Year" was not precise - so we corrected my biography with the official name of a very distinguished award that I am honored to have received.
My corrected biography accurately shows I received the United States Navy Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award - as the leader of an ad-hoc intelligence effort supporting four EA-6B Prowler electronic attack squadrons as part of Operation Allied Force - instead of Intelligence Officer of the Year. I accepted the Taylor Intelligence Award (named after the head of navy intelligence in World War II) as the leader of an intelligence section that I assembled and led. There is no hierarchy between these awards as the Taylor Intelligence Award is equally distinguished.
Watch the Kirk Campaign's Response to Alexi Giannoulias' Desperate Attack
I knew Alexi Giannoulias would focus on a negative campaign - in fact, he and his consultants announced that in the New York Times. I corrected the record, but I will not let my 21 years of service in uniform be denigrated by Alexi Giannoulias, a man who chose not to serve.
Frankly, I thought it took some nerve when he ran a television ad claiming credit for what amounted to tens of millions in investment losses from the college savings of thousands of working families under Illinois Bright Start - or to follow it up with a second ad looking for sympathy after so many of his decisions ran his bank into the ground, costing the FDIC $394 million. But coming after my 21-year Navy service record just might top those.
In November, Illinois voters have a choice - so let us look at my opponent's record - here it is. Because of that record he has made a strategic decision to attack my military service record. I understand politics is a tough business - but this attack orchestrated by Alexi Giannoulias is a disgrace.
My official Navy records speak for themselves - read them here.
Our state and nation face serious problems - and having a veteran's military record challenged by a politician who never served and was anointed by the media as a "mob banker" is absurd.
I look forward to the contest and laying out the choice. If Alexi wants to make this race about my military record, I'm happy to have the debate. Thank you for your continued support.
Very truly yours,
Member of Congress