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Another sordid case of campaign fund misuse? Sen. Mark Kirk says no.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois faces allegations of violating campaign finance law by funneling contributions to his girlfriend and ex-wife. Denying wrongdoing, the Kirk camp sees ill will from a woman scorned.

By Staff writer / May 30, 2012

This image taken from video and provided by Sen. Mark Kirk's office shows Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in January 2012.

Courtesy of Sen. Mark Kirk's office/AP

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Chicago

Revelations that a formal complaint of campaign finance impropriety has been filed against US Sen. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois threaten to embroil the first-term senator in a sordid tale of cronyism and hush money – but only if the charges made by the senator's ex-wife stick.

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The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) has recently acknowledged receiving a formal complaint from Kimberly Vertolli, Senator Kirk's ex-wife, alleging that the Kirk campaign improperly funneled thousands of dollars to his then-girlfriend during the 2010 election season. Kirk had divorced Ms. Vertolli in 2009, but since then Vertolli has named the girlfriend, Dodie McCracken, as the reason for their breakup.

In 2010, Kirk won the US Senate seat previously held by President Obama. A Kirk representative has described Vertolli's allegations as "groundless" and "consisting of bitter, personal attacks." 

Vertolli's complaint also names herself as a recipient of $40,000 from the Kirk campaign, which she alleges was paid to keep her quiet about the campaign money previously directed to Ms. McCracken. 

News of the FEC complaint against Kirk came to light this week, with a report in the Chicago Tribune. Vertolli's sworn affidavit was filed with the FEC in November, the report said.

The complaint states that Kirk broke campaign disclosure laws by funneling more than $143,000 to McCracken through The Patterson Group, an advertising firm based in Wilmette, Ill. McCracken has acknowledged receiving the money, even though her name does not appear on federal disclosure filings. According to the Tribune, the senator's attorneys told the FEC that McCracken’s name did not appear because she served as a subcontractor with the Wilmette firm.

McCracken’s payment was part of the $1.85 million the Kirk campaign paid The Patterson Group. A McCracken business associate and friend owns the firm, according to the Chicago Tribune. McCracken is a former Kirk press secretary, from his days as a US congressman.

Kirk representatives deny any violation of campaign finance law and say the senator's ex-wife is acting out of spite. 

“We are saddened that she decided to file this ill-advised complaint and abuse the FEC process to air personal grievances,” Kirk campaign manager Eric Elk told the Tribune via a written statement. Mr. Elk said McCracken handled a variety of duties including media strategy, ad placement, fundraising, event planning, and celebrity endorsements.

"Like any other important member of a campaign team, McCracken made contributions on many campaign activities,” Elk said.

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