In the wake of stories about GOP Illinois Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk embellishing his military resume, "his camp in the last few days have offered up stories of resume-embellishment Giannoulias has engaged in: Giannoulias had made two changes to his resume in response. Giannoulias now says he "was" founder and chair of the AG Foundation, a not-for-profit charity that donated money to treat child-related illnesses, curb poverty and assist disaster relief organization. He had previously said he "is" involved with the now defunct group. And Giannoulias admits he was not a "director" of the Community Bankers Association of Illinois. He served on the group's Committee on Legislation and Regulation."
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BY ABDON M. PALLASCH AND LYNN SWEET
Chicago Sun-Timed Staff Reporters
In yet another embarrassing revelation for GOP Senate candidate Mark Kirk, a document from the Department of Defense has surfaced showing military officials expressed "concerns arising from his partisan political activities during his last two tours of active duty."
Kirk, a commander in the U.S. Navy reserves, needed a "waiver" to become -- in his words -- the first congressman to be deployed to an "imminent danger" area since World War II when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and again last year.
Because of the officials' concerns about his previous "partisan political activities," they required him to write out an "acknowledgement of limitations required for all candidates on active duty," which he did. The waiver was granted.
The documents were posted on-line Wednesday evening by Terry Welch of Nitpicker.blogspot.com.
The document did not spell out what the "political activities" were, and Kirk denied there were any.
The Kirk campaign issued a statement Wednesday night asserting that Kirk never violated any Defense Department rules, and vowing to find out what "political operatives" gained access to his "confidential records."
However, Welch said he obtained the document from someone who got it from inside Kirk's campaign, not anyone in the administration or the campaign of Kirk's Democratic rival, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
"Someone got it from inside Kirk's camp and passed it on to me," said Welch, who served 5 1/2 years active duty with the Navy, followed by service in the Army reserves and Army National Guard. Welch served in Afghanistan between April, 2004 and May, 2005.
Kirk's statement said the Obama administration changed the original language of the waiver, inserting concerns about his "partisan political activities."
This latest controversy follows a rough week for Kirk in which he was forced to admit that he was not named "Intelligence Officer of the Year," as he had claimed, but rather shared a less weighty award with his whole unit, and that he had exaggerated other parts of his military record.
Here is the statement issued Wednesday by Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski: "Mark Kirk has served our nation in the U.S. Navy for two decades and has done so honorably. The fact is, Congressman Kirk never violated Defense Department policies. He has misspoken about his record, acknowledged it and apologized. Mark Kirk left for Afghanistan and he did not engage in political activities -- even in the face of radio commercials accusing him of being gay. The memorandum in question is simply off the mark. Furthermore, this raises grave concerns and questions about who gained access to Kirk's confidential records. The document in question should be viewed for what it is -- a baseless political ploy by partisans bent on defending a U.S. Senate seat at any cost.
"Going forward, we will be submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for all correspondence between Administration officials and Democratic campaigns or political operatives regarding Mr. Kirk's personal military records. We will not stand by and allow partisan attacks invalidate two decades of military service, both here and overseas."
Kirk got in trouble earlier this year for tweeting from the Pentagon during his once-a-month weekend assignments.
Kirk's military credentials have been his strong suit. But his formerly attractive military credentials as a reserve Navy intelligence officer, have been a bit tarnished as the revelations of his embellishments have dripped out.
The document that surfaced Wednesday also raises issues about whether Kirk is being accurate when he says he was deployed to an "imminent danger area." Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Gail McGinn wrote that as a congressman, Kirk was ineligible to deploy to such an area. McGinn has since retired.
Kirk also offered a timeline in which he said that before he left for his previous deployment to Afghanistan -- just after former Gov. Blagojevich's arrest -- he gave plenty of media interviews after hours during training but stopped them when he deployed. The Navy tracked him down in Afghanistan to remind him he was not allowed to engage in partisan political activities, and he complied, he said.
In the first poll since stories have come out about Kirk's exaggerations, his lead over Giannoulias has slipped from eight points to three, according to Rasmussen polls. Kirk leads Giannoulias 42 percent to 39 percent, down from the 46 percent-to-38-percent lead he enjoyed in April. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed by Rasmussen Reports said the news may impact their vote in November.
Kirk's camp in the last few days have offered up stories of resume-embellishment Giannoulias has engaged in: Giannoulias had made two changes to his resume in response. Giannoulias now says he "was" founder and chair of the AG Foundation, a not-for-profit charity that donated money to treat child-related illnesses, curb poverty and assist disaster relief organization. He had previously said he "is" involved with the now defunct group. And Giannoulias admits he was not a "director" of the Community Bankers Association of Illinois. He served on the group's Committee on Legislation and Regulation.