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Dems Slam Kirk For Earmark Hypocrisy

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) came out swinging in a Monday morning conference call with reporters, slamming Senate candidate Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for his "hypocrisy" on earmarking federal dollars for his district.

"His sudden outrage at earmarks comes years and years after supporting them, sponsoring them, condoning them," said Schakowsky, whose district borders Kirk's north of Chicago. "His sudden disapproval of earmarks simply doesn't pass the smell test, and he can't have it both ways."

The call was set up by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is pushing to keep President Obama's former seat in Democratic hands. It coincided with the launch of a new website called "Two Faced Kirk." Rep. Kirk joined Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), one of the most conservative members of Congress, at a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday highlighting the "11 Worst Pork-Barrel Spending Projects in the 111th Congress."

An Associated Press story published Thursday centered on the fact that Kirk secured $30 million in earmarks for his district in 2007, yet was attacking their usage at a press conference. Kirk, though, has reportedly sworn off earmarks since 2008, joining most of his party leaders in the House.

"There so far doesn't appear to be anything that Mark Kirk has stood for," including earmarks, gay rights and cap-and-trade, said Schakowsky. "I think he's pandering for votes to the base of the Republican Party. But in doing so he is leaving himself completely vulnerable because you can't have it both ways on these core issues for a lot of people."

Kirk is expected to win the Republican primary in February, while a new Chicago Tribune poll finds state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias leading the Democratic field. Kirk's moderate voting record in the House should serve him well running statewide, as Illinois has elected just one Republican to the Senate since the 1960s and hasn't supported a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.

Democrats, including Schakowsky, argue that Kirk is now attempting to win over the conservative wing of his party, while resting on his moderate record in Congress.

Republicans hit back at Schakowsky on Monday in a statement that mentioned her ties to ousted governor Rod Blagojevich and noted that Schakowsky is doing nothing to reform the earmarking process that allows for corruption.

"Schakowsky continues to buck President Obama's calls for reforming wasteful earmarks in Washington and she is still heavily involved in the culture of corruption in Illinois," said Amber Wilkerson Marchand, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

When asked on the conference call about her own potential hypocrisy -- attacking Kirk's earmarks when she pulls in pork-barrel spending for her own district -- Schakowsky reminded reporters that it's Kirk's sudden change of heart (during his run for Senate) that is so troubling.

"The issue is he supports using earmarks to benefit contributors, and then suddenly is against them," said Schakowsky. "The duplicity on this and other things is the most upsetting."