Rep. Mark Kirk "Smears" Opponent Over Alleged BP Ties

July 09, 2010 3:13 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who is running for President Obama's former seat in the Senate, is back on the offensive after a series of inaccuracies in his military record sent him temporarily into hiding.  Yesterday, Kirk's campaign released an ad attempting to link Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias to the Gulf oil spill.  As the ad proclaims: "Giannoulias' top aid was a longtime BP lobbyist."


America's biggest environmental disaster...where do the candidates stand? Mark Kirk won praise for helping stop BP when it tried to pollute Lake Michigan.  The Sun-Times said Kirk "fought hard to stop BP from dumping more waste into the lake." In contrast, Alexi Giannoulias' top aide was a longtime BP lobbyist.  And now Alexi says higher energy taxes are on the table.  Kirk and Giannoulias: big differences on the environment and taxes. 

It appears, however, that Kirk's troubles with the truth are not limited to his own past. accused Kirk of "smear[ing]" his rival, explaining that the ad requires a bit of imagination to support:

[Giannoulias adviser Endy] Zemenides was a real estate attorney for BP Bovis Global Alliance, a partnership between BP and Bovis to develop the retail, gas station side of the business, McGrath said. Zemenides helped the company on landscaping and zoning issues as the company converted a number of Amoco stations to BPs in the Chicago area. [...]

By the City of Chicago's definition, Zemenides was a lobbyist for a BP subsidiary. We think it's highly misleading to suggest that he lobbied in any way for a federal policy that allowed the oil spill to occur. We're not saying a lobbyist isn't a lobbyist. But some cities define lobbyist differently.

It's one thing to be an attorney handling landscaping  and zoning issues for a company developing retail gas stations; quite another to lobby for lax federal legislation on deepwater oil drilling. The Kirk ad makes too much of very little.

Understandably, Kirk wants to divert attention from his record, but he should probably look for a subject on which he has a bit more credibility than clean energy.  In June 2009, Kirk bucked the Republican Party and voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act.  That decision was met with fury from the right, and in September, Kirk buckled and promised to oppose the bill in the Senate. 

On the other hand, Giannoulias is a firm supporter of clean energy legislation — like the American Power Act — that would create millions of jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil at a minimal cost to consumers.  For example, despite the Republican rhetoric, the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that the average household would see "between a $136 increase and a $35 dollar decrease in annual energy expenditures."