Image: Mark Kirk
Charles Rex Arbogast  /  AP
Illinois Republican Senate candidate, Rep. Mark Kirk, responds to a question during a news conference in Chicago. Kirk apologized Thursday for making inaccurate statements about his service in the Navy Reserves, while acknowledging more discrepancies.
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updated 6/15/2010 10:40:17 AM ET 2010-06-15T14:40:17

The Pentagon said Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk has been cautioned twice for improperly mingling politics with his military service, but Kirk's campaign denied any improper conduct Tuesday.

The Defense Department said Monday night that Kirk, a commander in the Navy Reserve, was warned after two incidents of political activity while he was on active duty. Before being allowed to go on active duty again in Afghanistan, Kirk was required to sign a statement acknowledging he knew to avoid all political work.

"Commander Kirk was counseled about each of his violations after they occurred and signed a statement acknowledging the limitations on his ability to participate in campaign activities while on active duty. He was required to complete this acknowledgment before being allowed to begin active duty in December 2009," the Pentagon said.

Kirk's spokeswoman dismissed the issue, saying the questions have already been addressed by the campaign in the past.

"Had there been any issues documented in Congressman Kirk's military record, the Department of Defense would not have issued a second waiver for his deployment to Afghanistan," Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement Tuesday.

The Defense Department said one incident occurred late in 2008 when Kirk gave interviews about Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich being arrested.

And in July 2009, Kirk or a staff member wrote on the candidate's Twitter account that he was on duty at the Pentagon's National Military Command Center.

Kirk, a five-term member of Congress from Chicago's northern suburbs, is running against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for the Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.

Video: Congressman apologizes for exaggerating military record

Kirk already has dealt with revelations that he had exaggerated his military record, particularly by repeatedly saying he was named intelligence officer of the year. The award in question went to his entire unit.

Kirk has made his 21 years of service in the Navy Reserves a key part of his campaign, mentioning it in most speeches and news releases.

Politicians' military records are under particularly intense scrutiny after the recent revelation that a Senate candidate in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, had sometimes told audiences he served in the Vietnam War. Actually, he was in the Marine Reserves and never left the United States.

The issue of Kirk taking political action while on active duty was first raised when a blogger named Terry Welch disclosed a Defense Department memo on the issue.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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