Kirk tries to link Giannoulias to Saddam Hussein
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH
Sun-Times Political Writer
CHICAGO--On a day that Democrat Alexi Giannoulias released a new commercial slamming him as a liar, Republican Mark Kirk tried to shift the focus back onto Giannoulias' family bank, saying the bank gave a loan to Nadhmi Auchi, who Kirk said sold arms to Saddam Hussein.
"According to the New York Times, he was a banker to Saddam Hussein," Kirk said of Auchi. "And According to the Observer of London, he was a middleman in the billion-dollar naval arms deal between Hussein and the Italian Navy."
Voters should care, Kirk said: "This is not political Kryptonite -- this is Hemlock," Kirk said.
Kirk delivered his remarks after giving a 40-minute speech on foreign policy -- Iran, Afghanistan, etc. -- to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. It was the first of a series of speeches Kirk planned to "elevate" the debate above mud-slinging in the senate race, Kirk said. Then he went back to trying to link his opponent to Saddam Hussein.
"This was a huge loan," Kirk said of the $22.75 million loan the Sun-Times disclosed last week from Broadway Bank to Nadhmi Auchi and Tony Rezko to develop a 66-acre South Loop site. "The owners of the bank and its officers would have known that they were lending money to a convicted felon with a record of facilitating arms deals to Saddam Hussein and I'm not even talking about Tony Rezko."
Giannoulias' campaign said he left the bank five months before the loan was approved and had nothing to do with it. When the loan was signed in February of 2006, Giannoulias was in the middle of a hotly contested primary election for state treasurer. But Kirk still tried to hang the loan around Giannoulias' neck, saying Giannoulias was at least still a part-owner of the bank at the time.
"When you look at Treasurer Giannoulias' statements, I can't tell when he left the bank," Kirk said. "The other day, he said he was at the at bank in March of 2006, which would have been a month after this loan was approved. They were running a federally insured institution and so you would think that dealing with a person barred from the United States, convicted of a felony, that a simple Google search would have revealed his business dealings."
While at various points in the campaign Giannoulias spoke in the present tense about his position at the bank, he was on a leave of absense since September of 2005, his spokeswoman said.
Auchi's company continues trying to develop the 66-acre site along the Chicago River at Roosevelt and Clark.
"This is part of a disturbing trend of Broadway Bank business policies where it just seems to be an awful lot of convicted felons, mobsters etc., . . . are part of the business portfolio," Kirk said.
Meanwhile, the Giannoulias campaign released a new commercial tallying up news accounts of Kirk falsely claiming credit for military honors or accomplishments he never earned.
"I apologize for mischaracterizing portions of my record, and promise to be more precise in the future," Kirk said.
Kirk noted that thanks to the special election, he could become the 42nd Republican in the U.S. Senate as early as November, frustrating Democratic hopes on important issues such as "card-check" union votes.
Kirk will fly back to Washington this afternoon and he said he expected he will be voting for the Democratic-sponsored $26 billion "jobs bill" to funnel federal money back to the states this week.
"I'm inclined to vote for that legislation," Kirk said. "As a Republican moderate, my view is we should not add to the deficit. This legislation does make a number of cuts. . . . that make it deficit-neutral. And it would keep teachers in the classroom."
Kirk brushed off a report in Chicago magazine quoting his ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, saying that a Kirk advisor was exercising a "Svengali" influence over him, convincing him to vote against repealing the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Kirk repeated his line that he will wait for a report from military leaders to see if a repeal is workable, and added, "She was concerned about a couple of my votes. In the end, those are my votes. Kimberly and I are close friends and allies. I support her. She is a decorated naval officer and served with distinction in the CIA and we are very much allies."
Told of Kirk's Auchi comments, Giannoulias spokesman Kathleen Strand said, "This has gone from the ridiculous to the absurd. Mark Kirk once again proved today that he is incapable of being honest on anything from smearing Alexi's record to conveniently forgetting he supported the failed Bush policies that included shipping jobs overseas to countries like China, doubling our national debt and supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans."