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At issue in Illinois primary: Should a Dem be giving to pro-Israel Republicans?

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With only six days to go until their Democratic primary, Illinois Jewish congressional hopefuls Brad Schneider and Ilya Sheyman are engaged in a heated back and forth. (JTA’s Ron Kampeas looked at the race back in November.)

At issue is Brad Schneider’s history of directing some of his political donations to Republicans, a practice he defends as having to do with the recipients’ support for Israel.

Sheyman has been hitting Schneider on the issue (though not mentioning the Israel angle), even launching a website detailing Schneider’s donations to GOPers. In particular, Sheyman has been highlighting some of the recipients’ records of opposition to abortion rights. Sheyman supporter and former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean has attacked Schneider on the issue as well.

Now Schneider is firing back via a television spot touting his bona fides on abortion rights and calling Sheyman’s attacks “lies”:

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The commercial cites an editorial in The Chicago Tribune (which endorsed Schneider) that called some of Sheyman’s criticisms “bogus." (A Daily Kos blogger argues that the way Schneider is using the “bogus” quote is itself bogus, since the newspaper was seemingly using the term to convey that it disagreed with Sheyman’s criticisms, not to suggest that he was lying.)

Meanwhile, Politico quotes an adviser for the Blue Dog PAC who suggests that Sheyman’s efforts to label Schneider as a conservative Blue Dog Democrat are bogus.

Schneider, who is active in Jewish communal affairs, has said that “90 percent of my donations went to Democrats and 100 percent of my donations went to support the U.S.-Israel relationship.” Indeed, it’s not uncommon for pro-Israel donors to give to members of both parties, but for a Democratic primary candidate this could prove to be a liability.

The race has been painted as a fight between left and center over the Democratic Party’s future. The 25-year-old Sheyman, who has worked for MoveOn.org and Dean’s Democracy for America, is a favorite of the left, garnering the support of former Senator Russ Feingold, various members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus from around the country and the editor of The Nation. But Schneider, whose background is in strategic management consulting and is endorsed by House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, has been loath to cede the progressive label to Sheyman. Schneider’s commercial refers to him as the “true progressive.” (Sheyman called himself a "proven progressive" in an earlier TV spot.)

Meanwhile, a third Democratic candidate, military veteran and businessman John Tree, has garnered some endorsements as well, including from a suburban newspaper that noted the “toxic environment between Schneider and Sheyman’s supporters.”

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