For sponsoring legislation that benefited his mistress, allowing his mistress to buy him plane tickets on a Greek holiday, and paying his mistress under the table for campaign work, Sen. Mark Kirk has earned a dishonorable mention on Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington’s annual list of most corrupt members of Congress.
CREW, a non-partisan good-government group, criticized Kirk for actions stemming from his relationship with lobbyist Dodie McCracken. Kirk and McCracken co-habited from June 2011 to June 2012, but their romantic relationship is said to have begun while Kirk was still married to Kimberly Vertolli.
According to CREW’s report, in 2009, Kirk sponsored the Medal of Honor Commemorative Coin Act, which resulted in a $2.5 million windfall for one of McCracken’s clients, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
Kirk also allegedly attempted to hide payments to McCracken for work on his 2010 U.S. Senate payment campaign, CREW charges:
Sen. Kirk’s campaign committee did not report paying Ms. McCracken for her work on the campaign.28 Instead, Ms. McCracken apparently was paid indirectly as a subcontractor to one of the campaign’s vendors. Sen. Kirk’s campaign committee reported paying more than $1.8 million to the Patterson Group, an Illinois-based advertising firm.29 The firm is owned by Robert E. Vail Jr., who Ms. Vertolli alleged is a friend and business associate of Ms. The campaign made 18 payments to the firm between October 2009 and August 2010, reporting them as advertising expenses.
Kirk was also paying Vertolli for her campaign work, “to get me to be quiet about my misgivings about McCracken and get my energy focused on helping Mark win,” as Vertolli later put in a complaint to the Federal Elections Commission. And while he was a congressman, and still married to Vertolli, Kirk traveled to the Greek islands with McCracken, allowing her to buy the airline tickets, but failing to report them as gifts, as required of a member of Congress.
Between November 7 and 16, 2008, Sen. Kirk and Ms. McCracken travelled together to London, Athens, and the Greek island of Santorini. With her complaint, Ms. Vertolli submitted several receipts to the FEC showing hotel and travel expenses ostensibly paid by Ms. McCracken for both herself and Sen. Kirk. Specifically, Ms. McCracken paid 288.96 Euros (approximately $394) for Aegean Air plane tickets from Athens to Santorini for her and Sen. Kirk, and paid 840 Euros (approximately $1,069) for four nights in the honeymoon suite of the IRA Hotel in Santorini. In addition, Ms. McCracken appears to have paid 807.42 Euros (approximately $1,025) to the Hotel Grande Bretagne, a five-star luxury hotel in Athens, and 272.73 British pounds (approximately $426) to the London Green Park Hilton. Sen. Kirk did not disclose any gifts from Ms. McCracken on his 2008 Personal Financial Disclosure report or to the Clerk of the House.
Kirk was one of two Illinoisans named to CREW’s list. The other is Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria. Schock was cited for asking Rep. Eric Cantor to contribute $25,000 to a Super PAC supporting Rep. Adam Kinzinger -- five times the legal limit, and also for having his campaign committee reimburse him for a Greek vacation and P90X workout DVDs.
This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.