Military Records, Former Associates Haunt Candidates

Posted June 6, 2010 at 11:21am

Three Senate candidates’ records came under scrutiny on the morning news shows Sunday.

The inflated military records of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) were debated on ABC’s “This Week.” Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who is running as an independent, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that accusations that he was involved in a deal that resulted in money laundering charges against a former political ally are “absolutely untrue.”

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, compared the candidate’s misstatements. Blumenthal has admitted that he misspoke about his service in the Vietnam War — on several occasions he had indicated he served in Vietnam, when he actually served stateside in the Marine Reserves in the 1970s — while Kirk has wrongly claimed he received the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award. The award was given to his unit.

“Mark Kirk made clear that his company, or his organization, got that medal and not him personally, and he apologized for any misunderstanding,” Cornyn said.

But Blumenthal misrepresented his Vietnam service, then claimed he had “misspoken,” Cornyn said. “That’s like shooting yourself in one foot and reloading and shooting yourself in the other foot,” he added.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), whose own military service in Vietnam was a contentious issue in his failed 2004 presidential bid, said Blumenthal “stepped over a line, he’s apologized for it, and it’s time to move on.”

“I think every veteran had their own personal feelings on it, and obviously it didn’t sit well with a lot of folks,” Kerry said. ‘But I think these candidates are dealing with it at the local level. I think the electorate in both states will make their own judgments.”

On “State of the Union,” Crist said accusations that he knew about a deal that gave the former state Republican Party chairman a 10 percent cut of donations are “absolutely not true.”

Jim Greer was charged Wednesday with fraud and money laundering. He and Delmar W. Johnson III are accused of setting up Victory Strategies to divert party money to themselves when they served as state party chairman and executive director, respectively.

Damon Chase, Greer’s attorney, said Saturday that the deal was legal and that Sen. George LeMieux (R), whom Crist hopes to replace, proposed the idea, according to The St. Petersburg Times. LeMieux, who is not running for his Senate seat this fall, told the newspaper Saturday that he didn’t propose the idea and that he first learned about it this year in the news.

Crist also said he was unaware of the fund. “What I know about it is only what I have read in the newspaper,” he said on “State of the Union.”

“Sometimes people disappoint you,” Crist said of his former political ally.

“Sometimes desperate people say desperate things, and it’s very sad,” he added in response to Greer’s claim that Crist knew of Victory Strategies from the beginning and they worked on it together.

Elizabeth Brotherton contributed to this report.