This morning, Congressman Mark Kirk and State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias met for their first big debate on Meet the Press. You can read the Tribune blog and Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet's coverage if you missed it on TV.
So far, the most damaging thing I've heard come out of the debate was the startling utterance by Alexi Giannoulias that he did not know the "extent" to which some of his bank's clients were criminals... so, what, Alexi, being a LITTLE bit of a criminal is OK, but at some point, these guys crossed the line? When, exactly was that?
Currently, Team Kirk is blasting out e-mails left and right citing quotes and sources to show that Alexi and family had quite a bit of knowledge about the character of their clientele. Here's one:
Didn’t Know the Extent? Give Us a Break
During an appearance today on Meet the Press, Alexi Giannoulias was asked whether he knew about the criminal backgrounds of mobsters who received loans from Broadway Bank when Giannoulias was the Senior Loan Officer. Giannoulias said he didn’t know the extent of their criminal activities.
Didn’t Know the Extent?
FACT: The Chicago Tribune reported on April 1, 2010, the Giannoulias family was made aware of Giorango’s past when they read about in the Chicago Tribune in 2004. That 2004 Tribune report read in part:
“Michael Giorango has been convicted twice of federal bookmaking charges and was found guilty in January of promoting a prostitution operation, according to a Justice Department press release and court records.”
“In 1989, Giorango pleaded guilty to helping direct a south suburban bookmaking ring that used threats of bombings, beatings and robbery to collect unpaid debts. Nicknamed "Jaws," Giorango managed bookie parlors that moved periodically, as well as monthly floating "smokers," or casino gambling nights.
In 1991, while Giorango was in federal prison for the bookmaking case, he was convicted of additional gambling and tax violations stemming from his role in a separate bookmaking operation overseen by Chicago Heights gambling boss Dominic Barbaro. At Barbaro's several wire rooms, Giorango accepted wagers totaling more than $40,000 a week and settled up with customers, prosecutors said.”
So Giannoulias knew that Giorango had convictions for promoting a prostitution ring, bookmaking, gambling and tax violations?
FACT: On April 27, 2006, the Chicago Tribune reported that Giannoulias had traveled to Miami to meet with convicted mobster Michael Giorango and inspect a hotel that Broadway Bank had loaned him money to purchase:
“But on Wednesday, Giannoulias said he traveled to Miami "about a year or two ago" to inspect property the bank had financed for Giorango and met with him there. Giannoulias declined to provide details of that meeting.”
What “extent” of Michael “Jaws” Giorango’s criminal activities did Giannoulias learn about in Miami?
FACT: According to the Chicago Tribune, Broadway Bank loaned money to Giorgano’s partner, Demitri Stavropolous, even though Stavropoulos was in federal prison at the time of the loan.
“Co-signing those Broadway loans with Giorango was Demitri Stavropoulos of Oak Brook, who was convicted in 2004 for his role as ringleader of a multistate sports bookmaking operation that grossed about $1 million a year. Stavropoulos also was convicted of explosives possession charges in 1994. Stavropoulos was in federal prison in June 2005 when the $3.6 million Myrtle Beach loan was made. The inmate’s wife signed the loan papers as his ‘attorney in fact,’ land records show. Stavropoulos remains in federal custody and could not be reached for comment. Giorango declined to comment through an attorney.”
Alexi didn’t know the extent? Give us a break.
In a follow-up e-mail, Team Kirk notes that Time's Joe Klein says: "Giannoulias just said he didn’t know the full extent of the criminal activity of people that his bank was giving loans to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a politician say anything like that before." Watch it below:
Use this as an open thread to comment on the debate. Who won, who lost, what effect will this have on the race, and where do we go from here?
UPDATE: We'll try to add reaction and analysis from various sources on the outcome of the debate as they become available. Here's NBC-5's Ward Room blog reaction. Here's Politico, which focuses mainly on the 'mob ties' issue.