07/07/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Illinois GOP Gaffe: Mistakenly Calls Small Business 'Tax Cheats'

The Illinois Republican Party made an embarrassing gaffe on Thursday, falsely accusing Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias of giving a speech to "tax cheats."

Giannoulias gave a press conference at Granite Innovation yesterday, highlighting women's issues and calling attention to his opponent's weakness on the issue. Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate, voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that supported women's rights in equal-pay disputes.

Just before the event, though, the Illinois GOP issued a press release entitled: "In Midst of Budget Crisis, Giannoulias Holds Campaign Event with Tax Cheats."

From the release:

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is holding a press conference at Granite Innovation today for his Senate campaign. While the stated purpose of the event is to promote Giannoulias' "new agenda to help Illinois families balance increased challenges between working to make ends meet and raising children," perhaps the State Treasurer could ask his hosts to pay the $26,446 they owe the State of Illinois in back taxes.

"Treasurer Giannoulias should know better," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady. "Illinois is in the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis - a crisis Alexi Giannoulias says we need a tax hike to solve. But while Alexi is asking struggling Illinois families to pay even more, he's holding campaign events with people who haven't paid what they already owe."

Turns out it was Brady and the Republican Party that should have known better. As the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reports, the company's accountant said all the liens had been paid, and he would soon produce documents to prove it.

Alexi's campaign wasted no time in hitting back. Rich Miller at the Capitol Fax blog reproduces some of the campaign's statement:

Mark Kirk and his Republican allies hit a new low today, spreading an irresponsible, malicious lie in order to smear an Illinois small business owner in the furtherance of a political agenda, and the only honorable thing for Congressman Kirk to do is to repudiate his party chairman, Pat Brady, and apologize to Ms. Dandamudi immediately.

Sweet looked for a reaction from the right, but she writes: "The Illinois GOP did not return my call. Kirk campaign spokesman Kirsten Kukowski said she had no comment."