Sen. Mark Kirk released a campaign ad Monday that calls Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s work at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs “shameful.” This comes only a few weeks after Duckworth released an ad calling Kirk’s military embellishments “disgraceful.”
The Kirk ad, which was paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, features a pair of VA whistleblowers, Dr. Lisa Nee and Germaine Clarno, condemning Duckworth’s work at Illinois' Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital.
“Veterans dying, but Duckworth said nothing could be done,” the ad’s narrator says. “Tammy put political ambition before our veterans. That’s shameful.”
According to the whistleblowers’ allegations, Duckworth was largely unresponsive to evidence related to veteran mistreatment and inadequate investigations conducted by the VA’s inspector general.
During a radio appearance in March, Clarno claimed that, although she approached Duckworth “many” times, the congresswoman did little to respond to her claims.
At the time, the Duckworth camp dispelled those claims.
"Since receiving troubling reports from Ms. Clarno regarding Hines VA, [Duckworth] has doggedly pursued them by helping launch a VA Office of Inspector General investigation and a separate review by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the independent federal agency tasked with protecting federal whistleblowers, among several other actions," Duckworth spokesman Ben Garmisa said.
According to a 2014 report, the VA office of the Inspector General conducted an inspection to assess allegations that dealt with cardiovascular care at the Hines VA. The inspection was at the request of Duckworth and Sen. Dick Durbin.
This isn’t the first time Kirk has used whistleblowers in a campaign ad. Last month, the senator’s campaign released an ad, “Priorities,” that featured Denise Goins and Christine Butler, the plaintiffs in Duckworth’s workplace retaliation suit stemming from her time as director of the IDVA.
Duckworth has also sent shots at Kirk. Last month, the congresswoman’s campaign released an ad, “disgraceful,” that hammered the Republican on past embellishments to his military record. The 30-second spot features a combat veteran, former U.S. Army Capt. Emily Miller, who did two deployments to Afghanistan and earned the Combat Action Badge.
“It’s a badge that you don’t really want to get and it’s certainly not something to lie about,” Miller says in the ad.
The ad’s narrator goes on to claim that Kirk "lied 10 times about his military service,” something that was deemed “mostly true” by Politifact in September.
“Republican Mark Kirk has lied repeatedly about his military record,” Duckworth spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement at the time. “He lied about being shot at. He lied about serving in combat in Afghanistan and in Kosovo. He lied about serving in both Iraq wars. He lied about an award he never earned and claimed a position he never had.”
"Now in desperate political straits, he’s banking his reelection campaign on lying about Tammy Duckworth’s record and commitment to fellow veterans,” he added.
The only claim disputed in the Politifact report was that Kirk lied about being shot at in Afghanistan. The original source for that claim, Huffington Post, contains an update noting Kirk described two separate incidents. Kirk’s campaign has said that he “made no misstatement when talking about his service in Afghanistan.”
Nevertheless, Duckworth's ad faults Kirk for attacking the congresswoman, a combat veteran who went on to work in both the state and national VA after losing both legs piloting a Black Hawk helicopter over Iraq in 2004.
“For Mark Kirk to attack another veteran, especially somebody like Tammy who’s done so much for veterans, it’s really disgraceful,” Miller says in the ad.