CHICAGO (AP) -- Illinois Democrat Alexi Giannoulias said Monday that his first-quarter fundraising in a state where Democrats hold every statewide office didn't match the money raised by his Republican opponent in the race for President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.
Giannoulias' campaign did not disclose the actual amount he raised but said it was not as much as Mark Kirk , a five-time GOP congressman who said last week that he raised $2.2 million in the first quarter of 2010. Still, Giannoulias said his campaign posted its best fundraising quarter yet and raked in more than the $1.1 million raised during the first quarter of last year after he announced he was exploring a Senate run.
Both candidates' federal fundraising reports are due Thursday.
Giannoulias, a first-term state treasurer who is trying to hold on to the Senate seat for Democrats, said he wasn't troubled by his campaign's failure to match Kirk's first-quarter results.
"Making a pledge not to take money from federal lobbyists and corporate PACs, I can tell you, makes things tougher. That's the reality of it," Giannoulias said.
Unlike Kirk, Giannoulias had a tough primary fight, which he said took him away from fundraising for the November election. Giannoulias denied any "softness" in fundraising because of his family bank's highly publicized problems.
Regulators have given Chicago-based Broadway Bank until later this month to raise $85 million in new money. Heavy into real estate loans, the bank lost $75.3 million last year and Giannoulias has said it will be tough for the bank to survive.
The bank's problems, including revelations it apparently loaned two convicted felons $20 million, have become a political liability for Giannoulias, who worked there as a loan officer before he was elected four years ago.
"Money's the least of his problems," DePaul University political science professor Michael Mezey said.
Mezey said it's too early to read too much into Giannoulias' fundraising numbers and that he'll likely keep up with Kirk in the long run. But he said the bank's problems and scheduled summer corruption trial of the state's disgraced former Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich, could hinder Giannoulias' campaign.
Giannoulias tried Monday to turn the heat back on Kirk during a speech at the City Club of Chicago, painting him as "obsessed" with Broadway Bank's troubles to the exclusion of other issues on voters' minds.
"Just about every sentence that Congressman Kirk utters these days is a noun, a verb and Broadway Bank," Giannoulias said to chuckles from the crowd of more than 200.
Giannoulias stressed again that his family's bank was healthy when he left it four years and that it wasn't crippled by the bad loans it is now saddled with because of an "unprecedented real estate market collapse." He also said he accepted responsibility for the less than 9 percent of bad loans that happened when he was there.
"But I won't let Congressman Kirk get away from the issues. I'm not going to let this campaign be overshadowed by his negative attacks and lies," Giannoulias said.
Kirk's spokeswoman, Kirstin Kukowski, responded in a statement: "While Congressman Kirk continues to present his thoughtful, independent vision to create jobs, lower taxes and fight corruption, Alexi Giannoulias is launching a negative campaign to distract voters."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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