Thursday, April 15, 2010

Concerns about Alexi Giannoulias misguided

Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, taking his cues from Karl Rove, wants everyone to know that "people are concerned" about his Democratic opponent, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. One of these "concerns" that people are supposed to have is over Alexi's fund-raising prowess.

You see, Alexi only raised $1.2 million to Kirk's $2.2 million in this quarter. Kirk, of course, has benefitted greatly from his support from Wall Street firms and Big Banks, which he voted to bail out in the fall of 2008. And they are certainly rewarding Kirk for his support for the big banks.

Alexi, though, has taken a different tack. His ethical guidelines prevent him from taking money from corporate PACs, like those who have contributed more than 2 million dollars to Mark Kirk. Alexi is running to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate, not Wall Street. Kirk has already proven he'll sell his vote to the highest bidder (which rarely includes Illinois).

But, like most of Kirk's criticisms of Alexi, this one doesn't stand up, either. Alexi is squarely in the middle of Democratic Senate candidates, both incumbents and non-incumbents. No reason for concern -- unless you're Mark Kirk.

Alexi raised more money than Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector -- who's in a tight primary race right now. He raised twice as much as Democratic candidates in New Hampshire, Indiana and Ohio:

NV SEN: Sen. Harry Reid $1.75M
NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand $1.6 M
MO Sec/State Robin Carnahan ~$1.5 M
CO Sen. Michael Bennet $1.4 M
IL Treas. Alexi Giannoulias $1.2 M
PA Sen. Arlen Specter $1.16M
NH Rep. Paul Hodes $665 K
IN Rep. Brad Ellsworth $625 K
OH LG Lee Fisher $550 K
LA Rep. Charlie Melancon $543 k

So what's all the fuss about? Oh, yeah. Instead of talking about jobs, Kirk wants to attack Alexi. Instead of talking to the people of Illinois, Kirk wants to -- remember? -- attack Alexi. Whatever the question is, Kirk's answer is to attack Alexi.

The Karl Rove school of politics. Divide the nation, and suppress the vote. Sound familiar?

Democrats are supposed to be demoralized because we've nominated a bright, young, attractive reformer to be our nominee to fill Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. While Alexi Giannoulias can point to his head-of-the-pack leadership to save the jobs at HartMarx, Mark Kirk can point to... ANOTHER ATTACK on Alexi Giannoulias. Sense a theme here?

Mark Kirk thinks we're stupid. He thinks that if he can make Alexi a bad boy, Democrats will stay home, not vote or skip the race. And you can understand why. Conservatives are too fond of Kirk. Kirk's actual base may not go far outside his North Shore Congressional District. You won't see any Mark Kirk signs at a Tea Party rally (and don't say his name too loud, if you go). They aren't fans.

Alexi faces a stiff head wind. The national political environment doesn't favor Democrats. The economy is still in the dump for many of us. And Kirk is one of the most formidable candidates Republicans could offer.

But this is Illinois, and -- more importantly -- this is Barack Obama's old seat. Mark Kirk wants to make this race about Alexi Giannoulias, because he understands that Illinois would never elect him if this were about issues, if this was about who bests could represent OUR state in the U.S. Senate.

As this quarter's fundraising totals suggest, Mark Kirk has stepped-up his game. And now Alexi Giannoulias needs to do so, as well. Alexi remains an overly cautious candidate, one who stays well within his comfort zone. He's going to have to step outside that comfort zone and start pushing the envelope. But, in the end, this election is going to be about Illinois, not Alexi Giannoulias. It's going to be about who can best support our favorite son, in his Agenda for Hope and Change in Washington, D.C.

We understand that the East Coast corporate Fat Cats like Mark Kirk. There was really never any question about that. The question is, will Illinois elect someone who will carry Mitch McConnell's and the conservative Southern Republican leadership's water. Because no one expects Mark Kirk to bring an independent voice to the Senate. He's been George Bush's and Donald Rumsfeld's trooper in the House, and you can reasonably expect him to be Mitch McConnell's trooper in the Senate.

Illinois can do better than Mark Kirk, and we will...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mark Kirk fails to answer questions (again)

Half way through the latest Congressional vacation, the AP headline said it all: Kirk won't say if he wants health care repealed. Kirk won't say -- again. Still. In perpetuity.

Mark Kirk is more than willing to talk to the New York Times and the Washington Post. He'd tell them, *if* they were interested in the Senate election here in Illinois. He's their boy. The ultimate D.C. insider, Mark Kirk is quick for a quote to the ultimate beltway insider media. But if the people here in Illinois have a question?

Mark Kirk won't say.

Mark Kirk had two weeks to spend here in Illinois. Did he sit down with the major media outlets like Alexi Giannoulias did for a whole day in the last month? Nope. Kirk couldn't be bothered.

Did Kirk spend more than a few minutes taking questions at any of his appearances around the state? Not according to any report I've seen.

Makes you wonder what Mark Kirk is hiding.

Look, I understand. Mark Kirk voted to bail out the big banks, but criticized Alexi Giannoulias for the fact that his family's community bank is in trouble. We'd like to know why Kirk wants to save the banks that have been his faithful campaign donors, but is so cavalier about banks that actually help people here in Illinios. And we'd like to know why Mark Kirk assured the conservative Club for Growth that he'd lead the efforts to repeal this historic Health Care Reform law, but has now changed his mind. Kinda sound familiar? He did the same thing with Cap and Trade. First he was for it, then he's against it. About what you'd expect from the ultimate Washington, D.C. insider.

People here in Illinois want to understand Mark Kirk's role in the GREATEST INTELLIGENCE FAILURE in our lifetime. We want to know why Mark Kirk has never stood up and voted against his very conservative leadership without their permission on a single whipped vote. We want to know why Kirk always seems to say one thing in private and another thing in public. We understand that Kirk has been dominated by powerful figures -- eg, Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush -- and we are concerned that Kirk will go to the Senate and be dominated by powerful figures (like Mitch McConnell or John Coryn). We wonder why Kirk is so secretive and why he seems to know more about China than he does Illinois. Most of all, voters in Illinois are concerned that Mark Kirk is more likely to represent the hyper-conservative Republican leadership than he is the state (and voters) of Illinois.

This two-week Congressional recess should have given voters (and media) in Illinois the opportunity to get our questions answered. But Mark Kirk won't say.

These questions have been around for awhile (hence the video above). But Kirk continues to run a stealth campaign. An inside-the-beltway campaign. We get that Mark Kirk is a busy man, an very-important-person inside the D.C. beltway. But now he wants our votes to represent our state in the Senate seat formerly held by the President of the United States. Here in Illinois, we are still proud of our presidents. So electing someone who's primary goal will be to prevent our favorite son from achieving the goals that this country elected him to do doesn't exactly seem in our best interests.

But Mark Kirk won't say. Is it arrogance? Hubris? Are we an inconvenient burden for Kirk? Or has Kirk simply decided that we don't deserve to understand his thinking, or that he doesn't deserve to explain his part in our government failures?

Mark Kirk won't say, so he's attacking Alexi Giannoulias for things over which he (Alexi) had no control. Mark Kirk assured his constituents that he knew where the WMDS were in Iraq, but he won't explain why none have been found. Yet he was directly responsible for making that assurance -- assurances you can be sure he also made to the New York Times and the Washington Post in the run-up to our invasion of Iraq.

I get it. We're just little people here in Illinois. And Mark Kirk is a Very Important D.C. Insider. We shouldn't question him. We should just take the scraps that he's given us and accept them. Hey, isn't Kirk waving a flag? See! That should be good enough!

In other words, Kirk is telling us to trust him.

I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly in a trusting mood with regard to politicians. Especially Very Important D.C. Insiders. If Mark Kirk won't answer our questions, then Mark Kirk doesn't deserve our votes. Kirk represents what is wrong with Washington, D.C. He certainly hasn't demonstrated any interest in fixing the place.

Illinois Statehouse News offered another, more telling headline last week: Mark Kirk Says he won’t lead. This is a Senate seat with some history to it. Some of us would like a Senator who can lead, someone who can stand up to powerful interests (like Michael Madigan) and come away with a victory. We don't need a Senator who always says No -- there are things we'd like the Federal Government to do. We need a Senator who knows how to say Yes to Illinois, Yes to Illinois' interests and will represent them when he goes to Washington. The choice couldn't be more stark -- Mark Kirk, the ultimate beltway insider, or Alexi Giannoulias, an independent reformer who listens to the people here in Illinois and has gone out of his way to answer our questions...