06/27/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Giannoulias' Chief Of Staff Praises Kirk For Returning Goldman Contributions

Republican congressman Mark Kirk has tried to make his U.S. Senate race against Alexi Giannoulias about the collapse of the Giannoulias family's Broadway Bank. For his part, Alexi has done his best to paint Kirk as a Washington insider on the Wall Street payroll.

Apparently, his chief of staff didn't get the message.

Robin Kelly, in her bid to replace Giannoulias as the state treasurer, praised Kirk for an issue Giannoulias has been attacking him on for weeks: his return of donations from Goldman Sachs employees.

After the SEC announced it would investigate Goldman for fraud in mid-April, the Giannoulias campaign was quick to highlight the amount of money -- over $54,000, it claimed -- that Kirk had taken from Goldman employees. In response, the Kirk camp, aiming to "err on the side of of caution" and to "set an example of ethics," vowed to return all money donated to his campaign by the troubled investment bank.

Giannoulias didn't let up. He released a video citing dozens of other companies "accused or found liable of fraud" from which Kirk has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars. "Why won't Kirk follow his own example?" the video asks.

But in a confusing political gambit, Kelly -- Giannoulias' current chief of staff -- issued a press release challenging her own opponent, Republican state senator Dan Rutherford, to follow in Kirk's footsteps.

From the press release:

Kelly is asking that Rutherford follow the lead of fellow Congressman Mark Kirk, U.S. Senate candidate and standard-bearer of the Illinois Republican Party, who just last week announced that he would return the money he received from Goldman employees.

Specifically, Kirk said he would give back his Senate campaign contributions, stating: "I want to set an example of ethics for others to follow."

Will Rutherford, who sits on the Illinois Senate's Financial Institutions Committee, follow Kirk's lead and avoid a conflict of interest? Will Rutherford do what is ethically right by donating the dirty money or will he side with a Wall Street titan accused of corrupt activity and against Illinois families?

The Capitol Fax blog points out a strange error in the release:

[N]otice that Kelly's campaign refers to Kirk as a "fellow Congressman" of Rutherford's. Rutherford is in the Illinois Senate. Kirk is in the US House. Kelly served in the Illinois House, so she surely knows the difference, or maybe not.

"Every man and woman for themself, I guess," writes Crain's columnist Greg Hinz. It certainly looks that way.