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Mark Kirk warned by Defense Department not to campaign while on Navy reserve duty

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By Lynn Sweet and Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times

In another embarrassing revelation for Illinois GOP Senate candidate Rep. Mark
Kirk, a commander in the Navy reserves caught embellishing his military record, a Department of Defense document surfaced Wednesday showing his superiors expressed "concerns arising from his partisan political activities during his last two tours of active duty."

The Kirk campaign said in a statement that Kirk never violated any Defense Department rules, and suggested that the Defense Department memo was dug up by the Obama White House and/or Democratic operatives.

However, the web-based researcher who posted the memo on Wednesday said he obtained the document from someone who got it from inside Kirk's campaign.

That document was posted on-line Wednesday on Nitpicker.blogspot.com, by Terry Welch, the founder of the site who served 5.5 years on 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.

Welch, asked by the Chicago Sun-Times about the memo, said he did not get it from anyone in the administration, a political operative, or anyone from the campaign of Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer.

"Someone got it from inside Kirk's camp and passed it on to me," Welch said.


The Pentagon does not call up for deployment members of Congress who are in the reserves, and a member who wants to be deployed must get permission from the Department of Defense. Kirk, an intelligence officer, got such a waiver to serve in Afghanistan from Dec. 15, 2008 through Jan. 2, 2009 and from Dec. 19, 2009 to Jan. 4, 2010.

In a Dec. 18, 2009 memo authored by Gail McGinn, a deputy undersecretary of Defense, Kirk was told of his superiors' concerns about his previous "partisan political activities" while on reserve duty. They required him write out an "acknowledgement of limitations required for all candidates on active duty," which he did.


Kirk's campaign put out a statement Wednesday night asserting that Kirk never engaged in partisan political activities during previous deployments.

"The fact is, Congressman Kirk never violated Defense Department policies. He has misspoken about his record, acknowledged it and apologized," the statement said. "Mark Kirk left for Afghanistan(in 2009) 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 Kirk¹s 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."

Campaign spokesman Kirsten Kukowski said in the statement that the Kirk campaign will file a Freedom of Information Act for all correspondence between "Administration officials and Democratic campaigns or political operative regarding Mr. Kirk's personal military records."

This latest controversy follows a rough week for Kirk in which he was forced to admit to a series of embellishments about his military career was never, as he claimed for years, named the Navy's "Intelligence Officer of the Year."

Earlier this year, Kirk got in trouble earlier this year for tweeting from the Pentagon during his once-a-month weekend assignments which he used to describe as "I command the "War Room' at the Pentagon."

Kirk's military credentials have been his strong suit and were a centerpiece of his campaign against Giannoulias.


Below, entire statement from Kirk campaign released Wednesday night.....


Statement by Spokesperson 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."


Below find a timeline related to both of Mr. Kirk's deployments to Afghanistan:

1. Governor Blagojevich was arrested morning of December 9, 2008 for the potential sale of the Obama Senate seat.

2. On December 10, Senator Durbin raised the issue of a special election for the senate, instead of a governor's pick.

3. That day, the Illinois media began calling all Illinois congressmen and other figures asking if they could run. Congressman Kirk was doing pre-deployment training as a reservist in Springfield, Virginia, each day, then working in his congressional office each night. DoD rules allow congressmen to perform duties incident to their congressional office while on reserve duty. Kirk gave interviews with WIND, WLS, WFLD, MSNBC. He mainly commented on the arrest of the Illinois governor and when asked, said he would not rule out a run.

4. On December 11, Congressman Kirk was interviewed by Politico, Fox National TV, WLS and WFLD.

5. CDR Kirk then went dark and departed the United States on the night of December 13, 2008 for Afghanistan. He served for two weeks in Afghanistan and did not give interviews.

6. Hearing of the new discussion of a potential Senate special election in Illinois, the Navy tracked Kirk down and reminded him not to give interviews while deployed in Afghanistan. Kirk said he had not declared a candidacy and would not speak with the press.

7. Senator Durbin changed his mind and no special election was held. Senator Burris was appointed to replace Senator Obama.

8. When CDR Kirk deployed a second time, the Obama administration changed the original waiver to reference the Navy call to Kirk. Kirk also talked to SECDEF CoS Rangel and confirmed no public statements would be made from Afghanistan, like the first time.

9. CDR Kirk served in Afghanistan for two weeks a second time in December 2009 and January of 2010. During that service, a Kirk GOP political opponent, Andy Martin, accused Kirk of being gay and bought $60,000 of radio time to spread this message. Kirk took no action, gave no interviews and returned to the US. From his home in Illinois, Kirk called CoS Rangel and asked for permission to begin public speaking. Rangel approved and Kirk delivered his first speech in three weeks the following day.

10. The regulations are clear on this issue: please see paragraph 4.4 and subparagraph 4.1.2:

DOD Directive Number 1344.10 of February 19, 2008 is entitled "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces." It can be found here: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/134410p.pdf

Paragraph 4.4 is entitled "Holding and Exercising the functions of a U.S. Government civil Office Attained by Election or Appointment." Under Paragraph 4.4.3.,"A...Reserve Component member on active duty under...[an[ order to active duty for 270 days or fewer, may hold and exercise the functions of a civil office provided there is no interference with the performance of military duty." Subparagraph 4.4.5 states that such officeholders on active duty are still subject to the list of prohibitions contain in subparagraph 4.1.2.

Subparagraph 4.1.2 contains a list of prohibited activities among them not participating in any radio, television, or other program or group discussions "as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause." (Subparagraph 4.1.2.6). The regulation does not prohibit all participation, just participation that is as an advocate for or against a party, candidate or cause. Commenting on news events while in civilian clothes and not onboard a military installation should not give rise to a violation even if the Reserve component member is on active duty.

Paragraph 4.6.4 identifies DoDI 1344.10 as a lawful general regulation. This is required, under military law, if the regulation is intended to be punitive, i.e., military members can be prosecuted for violations. thus, the reference to article 92 of the Uniform code of Military Justice. Of course, one cannot be punished under the UCMJ unless found guilty of each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. the Deputy secretary's memo is not intended to adjudicate any previous issues and her use of the word "concerns" does not amount to a finding that any law was broken.


6 Comments

WHY did Rep. Kirk decide to get the waivers to serve in Afghanistan for (2) tours of only two weeks? Has anyone else been able to do that? Others have suggested Mr. Kirk would then gain from an increased military pension. On the other hand, this is an improvement over the typical Congressional fact-finding trip outside the U.S. to Paris or Hawaii for example.

I’m hoping to set the record straight. Much has been made of Commander (CDR) Mark Kirk military service in the last couple of weeks. The latest alleges the Rep. Kirk campaigned while serving in Afghanistan, an allegation that I can say categorically is untrue during his time in Afghanistan between December 15, 2008 and January 2, 2009.

I can speak with such certainty because CDR Kirk shared both his living quarters and an office with me. At no time did I observe him do anything that could be remotely construed on political campaigning. I certainly had preconceived notions, none of which were complementary, of what to expect when I learned I’d be sharing both space and responsibilities with a Navy reservist and a US congressmen. Never would I have expected that same person would be continually asking “what else needs to be done?” He took every opportunity to share knowledge and mentor the other officers. For anyone that’s ever worked with CDR Kirk, you know he’s a dynamo. During our time together he provided invaluable expertise on narcotics production and distribution that helped formulate the policies currently being implemented in Afghanistan.

I hesitate to post this, as I expect, much like CDR Kirk, I’ll be attacked and my motivations will be questioned, unfortunately such thing are to be expected as part of our current elections process. It’s also unfortunate I suspect after such hubris, CDR Kirk won’t return to Afghanistan (or any other combat zone). Therein lays the real tragedy, as we can use someone with his talents there. I’ll be returning to Afghanistan shortly (my 2nd tour in Afghanistan, and my 4th combat deployment) and CDR Kirk would be welcome in my organization.

Fred Tanner,

Where did you read anything that "alleges the Rep. Kirk campaigned while serving in Afghanistan"????

The article says that the Dept of Defense required him, in writing, to verify that he would NOT campaign while serving since there had been concerns about campaigning during PAST service.

That Under Secretary of Defense (Gail McGinn) who wrote the memo requiring Kirk to certify he would not campaign was appointed to her post by Pres. George W. Bush in 2002. Furthermore, according to her DoD bio she started with Army staff in the 80s under Reagan.

http://www.defense.gov/bios/biographydetail.aspx?biographyid=76


In other words, despite the Kirk campaign's whining about something-something-Obama, Gail McGinn was apptd by Bush and started under Reagan.


Godspeed to you in your deployments and all your other service, Mr. Tanner.

Wow, what a distraction.

We all know that Kirk is much more honorable than the Giannoulis crook, who is simply following in the footsteps of his crook mentors who run Chicago, and Illinois. it's a simple at that.

The thugs will continue to try to wrestle control of this state and country from those who advocate for a return to American freedom and they will not stop until we're all under their boots.

Mr. Tanner (no disrespect intended, I don't know your rank), the issue here is not what happened while Congressman Kirk was serving in Afghanistan with you, but what happened some months *later* when he tweeted about being on active duty *from the Twitter account of his Senate campaign*...which would be "campaigning while on active duty," as the entire purpose of the twitter account is to use as a campaign tool.

Frankly if he'd even bothered creating a "personal" twitter account and used THAT to say "Hey I'm doing my active weekend, pray for me," the issue here would be moot. Unfortunately, not only did he use a campaign tool to discuss his military activity while engaged in that activity, it's just the latest example of his self-ingratiating approach toward his military service which, as much as I wish to avoid dishonoring ANY honorable service, is beginning to appear to be as much a campaign tool as his Twitter account.

My dad served in the USMC from 1961-66. Do you know how many times I've seen him say to someone "I was a Marine?"

None.

He's never been to a VA hospital. He's never asked for - or accepted - a free meal on Veteran's Day or Memorial Day. He's never worn a uniform in public in my lifetime (I was born after he was discharged). I have no idea what medals or ribbons he may have been awarded, because he doesn't discuss them. When he and I would politics, he's never said things like "I served my country so I've more right to an opinion than you."

He's a humble man who rarely discusses his military service; at 40 years old to this day all I know is that he did basic at Pendleton, served on a ship as radio/SIGSINT in the Cuban Missile Blockade, and had to go through sharpshooter training twice because his long vision was horrible and - the first time through - uncorrected.

He did his job, he took his paycheck, and he went home.

THAT, sir, is what the dignity of military service is about, and it strikes me as even more unseemly than normal that a *US Congressman* would so debase and degrade his military service by using it as a bragging-rights tool in a political campaign.

With all due respect for your good intentions, sir...you've missed the point.

Regards,
John H. DeJong
Kalamazoo, MI

Mr. DeJong - It sounds like you're attuned to the "dignity of military service" (I like the phrase). I've followed the Congressman for quite some time, and expect that he and your dad would get along. As I've heard the facts laid out, that "tweet" was not sent by the Congressman - even on the quietest day of the year, you don't have time to send text messages from the war room of the Pentagon. And maybe it's unfair to accuse Mark of posturing when he talks about service. I think he lets people know that it's part of who he is, and what he's asking them to vote for. You will, I'm sure, make your own decision.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 9, 2010 7:59 PM.

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