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Giannoulias: My Money Is Better Than Kirk's Money

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Giannoulias: My Money Is Better Than Kirk's Money
Giannoulias: My Money Is Better Than Kirk's Money

At Sunday's Greek Independence Day celebration, Alexi Giannoulias looked determined to set the record straight on his family bank.

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Alexi Giannoulias may not have as much money as Mark Kirk. But he has better money than Kirk.

That’s the spin Giannoulias is trying to put on his pathetic cash deficit in the U.S. Senate race. Giannoulias raised only $900,000 between April and June 30, less than half of Kirk’s $2.3 million. And Kirk has $4 million in the bank, four times as much as Giannoulias. None of that should count, though, because Kirk takes money from Wall Street interests.

“Congressman Kirk has raised over $1.5 million from Wall Street interests, and has voted twice against Wall Street reform,” Giannoulias said at a press conference Thursday. “Twice.”

Giannoulias has been following the example of his idol, Barack Obama, by refusing to accept money from corporate PACs or corporate lobbyists. That worked for Obama because he had the charisma to turn his campaign into a movement. Individual donations poured in over the Internet from voters who saw connecting with the Obama campaign as a way to declare their own virtue and progressive values.

Sorry, but Giannoulias just isn’t that exciting. And he was, literally, not born to be a good-government reformer. He’s a banker’s son. If Broadway Bank hadn’t failed, Giannoulias would be using his family fortune -- obtained through the same financial industry he now condemns -- to bludgeon Kirk. When Giannoulias ran for state treasurer in 2006, nearly half his money came from family members. But the bank is gone and the fortune has dwindled, so Giannoulias is forced to portray himself as an underfunded outsider, taking on a tool of the financial industry.

Glenn Poshard tried the same thing in his 1998 campaign for governor against George Ryan, refusing to accept money from political action committees. Unlike Giannoulias, Poshard had populist cred: he grew up in a house without running water or electricity. But Poshard never raised enough money to let voters know he wasn’t raising money, and he lost to the thoroughly bought-and-paid-for George Ryan. In politics, it’s never a good idea to be so virtuous that you end up broke.

Not surprisingly, Kirk is accusing Giannoulias of hypocrisy for adopting financial reform as an issue.

“It is ridiculous that failed banker Alexi Giannoulias would campaign on financial reform after Broadway Bank was shut down for ‘unsafe and unsound’ banking practices,” Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said. “Giannoulias lost any credibility he may have pretended to have on this issue the minute his bank’s failure cost the FDIC $394 million.”

Kirk will take that line all the way to the bank.  

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