Democratic Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Thursday GOP rival Mark Kirk commited "economic treason" by raising money from Americans in China the day before he voted not to kill tax breaks for U.S. international companies.
The Kirk campaign said in a statement the assertion was "ridiculous both from a timing perspective and the fact that Kirk has been pretty consistent on China relations and against tax increases."
The peg for the Giannoulias statement, made at a press conference in Chicago's Loop: a leaked Kirk campaign memo--scooped by Rich Miller in Capitol Fax-- detailing Kirk's 2010 fund-raising activities, including the solicitation of Americans in Bejing.
Giannoulias said in his press release Kirk "held" a fundraiser in Bejing; rather, Kirk hosted a Skype call (a computer video hookup) with 12 U.S. citizens in Bejing. About $6,000 was raised from the event.
Raising campaign money from U.S. citizens living or visiting abroad is perfectly legal. Giannoulias went to Canada to collect money from U.S. trial lawyers at a convention; President Obama's 2008 campaign had a series of fund-raising events overseas.
Giannoulias said the call was "nothing other than an act of economic treason" and Kirk "held his fund-raiser essentially in China." He defended his statements even when reporters noted that the Bejing event was only a Skype call and was scheduled before May 17 (that was the date on the leaked memo) and that the House Rules Committee did not set the date for the May 28 vote until May 26.
That Skype call, the Kirk campaign said in a statement, "had nothing to do with legislation/votes." The tax break for international companies was an element in a broader bill passed mainly on a party line vote.
Meanwhile, not to let a good skirmish go to waste, later Thursday Kirk campaign chairman Eric Elk sent out a fund-raising appeal based on the "economic treason" charge.
"Alexi Giannoulias should be ashamed," Elk wrote. "That's right. A man who never served one day in uniform is accusing a 21-year Navy Reserve veteran of treason. It's dishonorable and a clear sign of desperation. Help us fight back against this latest desperate Giannoulias attack by making a contribution right now on our website."