Kirk's office points to other coin bills, but little else, in response to allegations

  • U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk came under fire this week for legislation that benefited clients of a former girlfriend.

    U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk came under fire this week for legislation that benefited clients of a former girlfriend. JOE LEWNARD/Daily Herald file photo

and Projects Writer

In the wake of a report that he may have advanced commemorative coin legislation that benefitted clients of a former girlfriend, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's office is pointing to nearly two dozen other coin bills he supported during his time in Congress, but is saying little else.

"Senator Kirk has done nothing wrong," the Highland Park Republican's chief of staff Eric Elk said in a written statement Friday.

Kirk, who is recovering from a late January stroke, continues to be unavailable for interviews.

A Chicago Tribune investigation cited three different pieces of legislation where Kirk co-sponsored bills that directed the Treasury to mint and sell coins with surcharges going to nonprofit groups. The legislation brought $5.3 million to two clients of Arcadian Partners, the public relations firm of Dodie McCracken, the former girlfriend whom Kirk was romantically involved with between 2008 and January 2012. A third bill, pending in the Senate, could send another $5 million to a third client.

The Medal of Honor Commemorative Coin Act, which sent $2.5 million to the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, passed by voice vote in the House in May 2009, and unanimously in the Senate that October. There were 302 co-sponsors of the legislation, but Kirk was one of the co-sponsors to sign on the day it was introduced.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Commemorative Coin Act, which sent $2.8 million to the Disabled Veterans' LIFE Memorial Foundation, passed the House and Senate in June 2008. However, Kirk signed onto the legislation in January 2007 -- he was the first co-sponsor -- before he and McCracken were romantically involved.

The third piece, the March of Dimes Commemorative Coin Act, was filed by Kirk's 10th District Congressional successor, Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Dold of Kenilworth, last October. Kirk is one of the five original co-sponsors of the Senate version of the legislation. Its passage is expected to send up to $5 million to the March of Dimes.

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McCracken did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

Kirk, Elk said, has "a long history of supporting veterans and women's health and will continue to provide that same leadership for the people of Illinois."

The Daily Herald submitted a number of questions in written format to Kirk's office at its request Friday, questions that largely went unanswered. Those questions included whether McCracken asked Kirk to push for legislation benefiting her clients; how he came to sign onto the legislation when he did and if he was aware that the organizations were on McCracken's client list.

Kirk's office said the senator has received more than 30 requests urging his support for the March of Dimes Coin Act.

The office also pointed out that the coin legislation comes at "no cost to the taxpayer."

This is not the first time Kirk's relationship with McCracken has made news this week. News broke Tuesday that Kirk's ex-wife, Kimberly Vertolli, in November filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that suggests Kirk improperly disguised payments to McCracken for her work on his 2010 Senate campaign.

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