Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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Giannoulias ad uses family bank's failure as attack

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[April 27, 2010]  CHICAGO -- Just three days after a teary-eyed Alexi Giannoulias addressed the federal government's takeover of his family's Broadway Bank, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate used the issue to slam his opponent Mark Kirk.

The 60-second spot has Giannoulias turning one of Republican Mark Kirk's biggest weapons against him. The Democratic state treasurer shifts blame for the bank's failure to the economic policies of the Bush administration -- policies Kirk supported as a five-term North Shore congressman.

"What our ad does and what our conversation will be focused on is the clear contrast between a failed past and a promising future," Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said. "A Republican Mark Kirk will take us backwards and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias will take us forward."


The ad opens with black-and-white images of the candidate's late father, Alexis Giannoulias, as the Illinois treasurer compares his family's financial troubles with those of everyday people. A voice-over from Giannoulias contrasts Broadway from "big banks," saying the enterprise helped "thousands of people achieve the American dream."

The sentimental tone is short-lived. The still images of Giannoulias' father are replaced with a black-and-white photo of Kirk with former President George W. Bush, as a female speaker slams Kirk for his support of tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs and for his opposition to extending unemployment benefits.

Strand said the advertisement is more about the issues than the bank -- a theme she thinks Kirk should embrace.

"It's clear that Republican Congressman Mark Kirk and his campaign can only sing one note, which is unfortunate for Illinois families who deserve so much more from their elected leaders, including an honest and open discussion of where they stand on the issues," she said. "Mark Kirk doesn't want to talk about the issues because he knows when he does, he loses."

Giannoulias has tried to downplay the bank's troubles throughout the campaign. But new revelations of risky investments and loans to convicted felons while he served as Broadway's senior loan officer kept the bank in the news and the Democrat on the defensive.

The bank's troubles came to a head on Friday when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. formally took control of the bank and sold it to MB Financial. But there is no telling when the bank's troubles will disappear from the campaign trail -- if ever.

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Mike Lawrence, former head of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute who served as an aide to former Gov. Jim Edgar and worked as a statehouse reporter, said the effectiveness of the ad will not be known for some time, but he noted that Broadway Bank will probably continue to hurt Giannoulias' campaign.

"The bottom line here is the closing of the bank, and the circumstances surrounding it are going to be harmful for him," he said.

Giannoulias has dropped in the polls since emerging from the primary with an early lead over the Republican. Recent polls show the Democrat's approval rating dropped by double digits and Kirk now holds a small lead, according to Public Policy Polling.

The ad began airing statewide on Monday. It is the first of many to come, as Giannoulias looks to regain lost ground against Kirk with six months to go before the Nov. 2 election.

The Kirk campaign did not respond to calls for comment.

[Illinois Statehouse News; By BILL McMORRIS]

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