With two weeks until Election Day, congressional candidate Ilya Sheyman has become the first of the Democratic hopefuls for the 10th District seat to take his campaign negative.
Sheyman has released a flier criticizing fellow Democratic candidate Brad Schneider for a handful of political donations Schneider made to Republican campaigns over the last decade.
"While Republicans fought everything we care about, Brad Schneider wrote them checks," the flier says.
Sheyman's campaign also created a website attacking Schneider over the donations. Photographs at truthaboutbrad.com show some of the Republican candidates Schneider supported posing with former President George W. Bush or U.S. Sen John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee in 2008.
It's an attack Sheyman and his supporters have made at public appearances as well. Three political groups backing Sheyman in the race are making similar claims in their own ads and in phone calls to potential voters.
The donations are a matter of public record and can be found at the Federal Election Commission website, fec.gov.
Schneider, who is Jewish and has worked with groups including the Jewish United Fund and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has said he wrote checks to the candidates because of their support for Israel.
Schneider criticized Sheyman's attacks as false and misleading.
"Ninety percent of my giving has been to Democratic candidates and 100 percent of the candidates have supported a strong US-Israel relationship, something I have spent a significant portion of my life on," Schneider said in an email to the Daily Herald.
Sheyman is Jewish, too.
Schneider has also said he has worked for Democratic candidates "my entire life," and the FEC website supports that claim.
A search of the FEC database showed Schneider made far more donations to Democratic candidates than Republicans.
A Sheyman campaign staffer defended the ad and the website.
"Voters have the right to know the facts about all the candidates running in order to make an informed choice," said Joanna Klonsky, Sheyman's campaign spokeswoman.
Sheyman, of Waukegan, and Schneider, of Deerfield, are among four candidates who will appear on Democratic primary ballots for the 10th District seat. The others are Vivek Bavda of Mundelein and John Tree of Long Grove.
A fifth Democrat, Aloys Rutagwibira of Hainesville, is running a write-in campaign.
The winner of the March 20 primary will face Republican incumbent Bob Dold of Kenilworth in the November general election. Dold is unopposed in the GOP primary.
Sheyman and Schneider have led the field in prominent endorsements and campaign fundraising so far.
According to fec.gov, Schneider has made more than 50 political donations since 1999.
Most have been for Democratic candidates including former U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean of Barrington, former U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, records show.
Schneider also sent checks to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Alexi Giannoulias' Senate campaign and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's congressional campaign committee, among other Democratic efforts.
Sheyman's flier and the anti-Schneider website single out donations to Republican candidates, including U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park, U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, U.S. Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah and U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota.
"While Ilya has built a track record of fighting for the progressive values that built the middle class in this country, Brad's built a track record of funding right-wing Republicans around the country," Klonsky said.
Of the five Democratic candidates in the race, only Sheyman has made Schneider's political donations a campaign issue. Sheyman also is the only candidate who has attacked any of the others on issues or past political activity.
Schneider rejected the tactic.
"As Democrats we shouldn't be focused on attacking each other because we are all strong progressives," he said in his email. "We should remain focused on beating Bob Dold and the Tea Party this November."
Three groups backing Sheyman have jumped on, too. MoveOn.org, USAction Fund for a True Majority PAC and Communications Workers of America-COPE teamed up to bash Schneider on his GOP donations.
They've already formed a website, schneidertherepublican.com, and are promising mail and telephone campaigns.
Sheyman used to work for MoveOn.org and often touts his experience with the activist group. A joint news release from the three groups indicates they're backing Sheyman.
Klonsky insisted the effort is independent of the Sheyman campaign.
Schneider's campaign manager, Jarrod Backous, didn't sound worried about the three groups swatting at his candidate.
"Outside interests are not going to determine the outcome of this race," Backous said in an email. "The (10th District) voters will determine the winner."
The 10th District includes parts of Lake and Cook counties. It stretches from Lake Michigan into the North and Northwest suburbs.