U.S. Sen. Kirk’s remarks to the Chicago Sun-Times that the SEIU was “corrupt” has stoked a feud between the powerful union and Illinois’ junior senator.

Beniamino Capellupo, executive director for the Service Employees International Union Illinois Council, accused Kirk, R-Ill., of being hypocritical because Kirk has accepted a donation from the union when he was a U.S. congressman representing the 10th district. 

The union went on to accuse Kirk of acting as a surrogate for newly-elected GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. Rauner has launched an all-out attack on public employee unions in Illinois.

“It is obvious that this politically motivated attack was orchestrated by the Rauner campaign. Rauner’s surrogate in this matter, Mark Kirk, did not harbor these same feelings toward SEIU as a Congressman when he asked for, and received a $2,500 contribution from us,” Capellupo said in a statement released to the Sun-Times. 

UPDATE: KIRK SAYS HE RETURNED THE DONATION

In an interview on Wednesday, Kirk pointed to the national significance of the race as being: “that the toxic left … would do anything to make sure that Illinois stays safely in the dull, gray, union-controlled, dumb economy that we have,” he said. “I would particularly say that there’s been one union that’s run the state of Illinois called the SEIU, a particularly corrupt union. The SEIU — it’s no mistake that Rod Blagojevich wanted to leave his job as governor and go work for them. It’s because he saw the SEIU as more powerful than the state of Illinois.”

The rhetoric comes as Republicans and Democrats prepare for battle over the governor’s mansion — a battle already characterized as a class war. Rauner’s GOP primary rivals repeatedly accused him of  ”demonizing” union workers as he waged war on union bosses. Rauner called it an inherent conflict of interest for public sector unions to donate to politicians. The SEIU’s biggest beneficiary in Illinois is Rauner’s general election rival, Gov. Pat Quinn, who has accepted more than $4 million from the union since 2000.

“It is an absolute shame that Sen. Mark Kirk would insult the hard working members of SEIU as corrupt,” Capellupo continued. “The reality is that members of SEIU — many of whom are Sen. Kirk’s own constituents – work hard every day to put food on their tables, pay their bills and clothe their children. Many working parents work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.” 

“The thing that is toxic is Sen. Kirk and his billionaire friend Bruce Rauner’s determination to deny access to any means of obtaining a better life through fair and decent wages for members of unions or anybody else who is not already in the wealth class of Sen. Kirk and Mr. Rauner. Just two days after the primary election, it is clear that billionaire Bruce Rauner will continue his attacks on the working men and women of Illinois. Only now he is using surrogates like Senator Kirk to level false accusations that malign the thousands of janitors, security officers, healthcare and child care workers and educational support staff that make-up the more than 150,000 members of Illinois SEIU.”

“The “national significance” of this race, to use Sen. Kirk’s words, is whether working families will continue to bear the brunt of an economy that drives all the wealth to the top by allowing corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.”