Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Truthish or Falsey: DSCC Says Kirk Is Indifferent to the Unemployed, Minimum Wage Earners

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is spending $250,000 on a new ad bashing Mark Kirk as a congressman from a wealthy district who doesn’t care about the poor and out of work. Kirk, it says, voted six times against extending unemployment benefits. He voted five times to block the minimum wage.

     Like so many campaign ads, this one tries to pass off half the story as the whole truth. So we rate it “Kinda Truthish.”

     The ad begins with this quote on unemployment from Kirk: “I’ve heard very little. I have a very high-income district.”

    Kirk does represent a high-income district. The 10th Congressional District of Illinois has a median household income of $71,663, making it the 10th richest district in the United States. (It’s only the second richest in Illinois, though, after the west suburban 13th.) Kirk’s campaign spokeswoman, Kirsten Kukowski, points out that he made the statement in 2008, when unemployment was 5.5 percent. Still, that’s a little Marie Antionette, isn’t it?

    The ad also claims Kirk “voted six times against extending benefits for the unemployed.”

    Kirk voted against the last extension of unemployment benefits in July, complaining it would add $34 billion to the deficit. He had voted in favor of a benefit extension in February, and several times before that.

    The ad also says that Kirk voted “five times to block increasing the minimum wage.”

    This claim is baffling. The bill numbers the ad cites were appropriations measures that had nothing to do with the minimum wage. Kirk voted for minimum wage increases in 2006 and 2007 -- one of a minority of Republicans to do so.Finally, the ad accuses Kirk of voting “to raise his own pay six times.” Kirk’s campaign responded with this quote from the Congressional Research Service: “There are no provisions for funding the salaries of Member in the Treasury and General Government Appropriations bill. Member salaries are funded in a permanent appropriations account of the legislative branch in the Federal Budget.”

     But Kirk voted for the appropriation, so technically, he voted to increase his salary. But that charge could be used against almost any member of Congress.

    The ad does make the point that Kirk won’t be as reliable a friend of the unemployed as Giannoulias. He did seem to reach his breaking point on handing out unemployment benefits this year. (The extension passed, so the unemployed aren’t reaching their breaking points.) But, end of day, the ad misleads just as much as it reveals.