U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's campaign refunded several checks to his ex-wife and her family members at her request just weeks before she filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against him.
Kimberly Vertolli asked the campaign last fall to return checks she, her brother and father contributed to the Highland Park Republican's 2010 Senate campaign, a source high inside the Kirk campaign said. The checks totaled $9,200, according to commission filings.
Though their 2009 divorce was described as "amicable," the request for the refunds and an FEC complaint filed by Vertolli against Kirk in November suggest their relationship was far more complicated.
Vertolli suggests in the FEC complaint that the Kirk campaign might have improperly disguised money that went to Kirk's former girlfriend, Dodie McCracken, by paying her through her public relations firm working for the campaign, according to a Chicago Tribune report. McCracken has acknowledged receiving nearly $150,000 for her campaign work.
A spokeswoman with the FEC confirmed Tuesday that Vertolli filed a complaint on Nov. 15 of last year and said the report will remain sealed until the investigation is finalized.
Kirk's chief of staff, Eric Elk, called Vertolli's complaint "ill advised" and an "abuse" of the "FEC process to air personal grievances" in a statement Tuesday. Kirk's office declined to release to the Daily Herald its response to the FEC.
"While Sen. Kirk and Ms. Vertolli divorced amicably three years ago and she actively supported Mr. Kirk's 2010 Senate campaign, Ms. Vertolli has since filed a groundless complaint consisting of bitter personal attacks and is attempting to involve a federal agency in a divorce settled 36 months ago," Elk said.
Vertolli, however, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, said Kirk's relationship with McCracken was partly to blame for their divorce.
In August 2010, Vertolli gave an interview to Chicago Magazine in which she described McCracken as a "kind of Svengali figure" in her ex-husband's life. Shortly after, it was reported that both Vertolli and McCracken were working for the campaign. Vertolli was described in an Aug. 17, 2010, Chicago Sun-Times piece as an "adviser" and McCracken as "involved in day-to-day operational and strategic decision making."
Vertolli was paid $40,000 by the Kirk campaign through a corporation that she had created before signing on in that role. In her interview with the Tribune, Vertolli said she now believes the money was given to "get me to be quiet about my misgivings about McCracken."
Kirk has not spoken to the media since suffering a serious stroke in late January. Vertolli could not be reached for comment.