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Would Orrin Hatch’s amendment make Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk a criminal?

So Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduces an amendment making it a crime to lie about your military service, and just days later, a Republican senate candidate is caught misrepresenting his service.

The question is: Does the bill apply to Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in the same way it applied to the original target -- Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D)? Would Kirk have committed a crime?

The answer, according to Hatch’s office, is no.

“The amendment’s intent is clear – it would make lying about serving in active duty in the military for the purposes of career advancement a misdemeanor,” Hatch spokesman Antonia Ferrier said.

The language of the amendment, though, is pretty broad, and it seems it could be construed to apply to Kirk’s situation. It reads:

“Whoever knowingly makes a fraudulent statement or representation, verbally or in writing, regarding the person’s record of military service in the United States Armed Forces, including, but not limited to, participation in combat operations, for the purposes of gaining recognition, honorarium, official office, or other position of authority, employment or other benefit or object of value as a result of the statement, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”
The congressman, who like Blumenthal is running for Senate, misstated an award his unit received by stating that it was bestowed on him alone. He did it while serving in the Navy Reserves.

Basically, Kirk’s misstatement has to qualify as making “a fraudulent statement” regarding his “record of military service,” and it needs to have been intended to get him something – “official office” (i.e. running for Senate). The bill specifically mentions lying about having served in combat, but is broadly written to include other things as well.

In other words, it seems plausible that Kirk could have been fined or served jail time had the Hatch amendment been in place.

--Aaron Blake

By Aaron Blake  |  June 1, 2010; 11:49 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  
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