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Kirk has some explaining to do

<p>&lt;p&gt;Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) suffered a major stroke earlier this year, and has been on the long road to recovery ever since.&lt;/p&gt;</p>
Kirk has some explaining to do
Kirk has some explaining to do

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) suffered a major stroke earlier this year, and has been on the long road to recovery ever since. By all indications, the Republican senator's health is improving, and he will eventually be able to return to his official duties on Capitol Hill.

When he does, Kirk will apparently have some uncomfortable questions to answer.

Soon after Mark Kirk's ex-wife announced she would no longer support his 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, he brought her onto his campaign team, then quietly paid her after his victory.But Kimberly Vertolli, a lawyer who received $40,000 from the campaign, again is at odds with her ex-husband, filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Kirk and his then-girlfriend may have broken campaign finance law.The girlfriend, Dodie McCracken, who works in public relations, has acknowledged receiving more than $143,000 in fees and expenses for her campaign work.

The story may seem a little complicated -- campaign-finance allegations often are -- but Kirk is effectively being accused of hiding campaign funds he directed to his then-girlfriend, after paying his ex-wife.

According to Vertolli (the ex-wife), the Republican funneled money through a company working for his campaign in order to give funds to McCracken (the girlfriend.) McCracken's name did not appear on Kirk's campaign finance disclosure forms because he did not pay her directly.

The Chicago Tribune quoted experts who wondered why the campaign didn't simply hire McCracken or her firm directly: "One Washington lawyer who handles election law said that generally speaking, 'intentionally obscuring the actual payee of a campaign expenditure is a violation'" of the law.

As for Vertolli, she claims she was paid $40,000 in part to keep her silent about her concerns regarding the money going to McCracken.

One assumes the FEC investigation will be delayed until Kirk's return to the Senate, but it looks like a mess that will be on his desk, awaiting his return. For its part, the Republican's aides are characterizing Vertolli as an aggrieved ex-wife making "groundless" complaints.