Message Machine: Checking the ads in Illinois

Alexi Giannoulias campaign ad "On and On"

Illinois is known for its rough and tumble politics and a large cast of interesting characters. So it's no surprise that the campaign to fill Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat has turned into a bare-knuckled affair.

For the latest installment of our Message Machine feature with NPR, we examined three claims from recent TV ads from Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.

Both candidates have found fertile ground for attacks. Giannoulias has portrayed Kirk as a "typical Washington politician" who cannot be trusted, citing comments Kirk made about his military service that turned out to be incorrect.

Kirk has portrayed Giannoulias as a shady politician who runs with unsavory characters. We decided to put three of the claims to the Truth-O-Meter:

• From a Giannoulias campaign ad, we checked the latest in a string of claims about Kirk's military record, that "He (Kirk) did violate Pentagon rules, twice actually, for improperly mingling politics with his military service."

• From a Kirk campaign ad, we looked into the claim that "At his father's bank, Alexi made tens of millions in risky loans to convicted mobsters. Then, the bank collapsed."

• And finally, we checked another Kirk campaign ad that alleged, "Alexi Giannoulias' top aide was a longtime BP lobbyist."