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In The News - 2004 Senate Races
Some see candidate milking his name; Oberweis facing fire on dairy ads
July 13, 2003
For the second time in as many elections, Republican U.S. Senate candidate James D. Oberweis is facing questions of whether he is skirting federal election laws by using his namesake boutique milk and ice cream business to help his campaign.

On Friday, Oberweis Dairy announced its first-ever television advertising campaign. The spots, featuring Oberweis touting the firm's home delivery service and company stores, are to run for eight weeks.

The timing of the commercials coincides with the ramp up of Oberweis' campaign for the Republican nomination to the Senate seat being vacated by incumbent GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.

Corporate contributions to candidates for federal office violate campaign finance laws. Oberweis' campaign denies any link between the dairy ads and its efforts to win what is likely to be a contentious GOP primary battle with several rivals.

Oberweis, who also heads an investment brokerage, came under fire from opponents in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican Senate nomination last year by using a logo in his campaign advertising that looked similar to that of his dairy. The dairy also launched an expansion into Downstate markets that coincided with his campaign. Oberweis also distributed samples of his dairy's ice cream at campaign events.

John Cox, who also lost a bid for the nomination last year and is among several contenders seeking Fitzgerald's seat, said he would "let the people of Illinois and the authorities decide" if Oberweis' television ads were legal.

But Cox, running on a political ethics reform platform in light of the Illinois GOP scandals, said the Oberweis effort could reinforce negative public attitudes about campaigning politicians.

"When you get out in front of the public and expect the public to trust everything that you say, they want to know that you're not only doing what's technically legal, but doing what is really correct and proper," Cox said.

Jeff Metzger, Oberweis' campaign spokesman, said the dairy ads were part of a five-year marketing plan.

The criticism "doesn't surprise me," Metzger said. "I think it's clear that [opponents] don't have any real issue to run against Jim Oberweis so they're going to try to nitpick."

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