Obama magically unstained by grime of Chicago Way May 11, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Tony Rezko, Uncategorized.
add a comment
Chicago Tribune; by John Kass; May 11, 2008
Will Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy serve his state and city by finally drawing national attention to the sleazy and corrupt politics of Illinois and Chicago?
It is all about context. The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate’s politics were born in Chicago. Yet he is presented to the nation as not truly being of this place, as if he floats just above the political corruption here, uninfected, untouched by the stain of it or by any sin of commission or omission. It is all so very mystical.
Perhaps viewing Obama as a Chicago political creature would conflict with the established national media narrative of Obama as a reformer. Actually, there’s no “perhaps” about it.
“I think I have done a good job in rising politically in this environment without being entangled in some of the traditional problems of Chicago politics,” Obama told reporters and editors at a Tribune editorial board meeting several weeks ago.
Yes, an excellent job. Except for his dalliance with his indicted real estate fairy, Tony Rezko, a relationship Obama considers a mistake, the senator has not played the fly to Mayor Richard Daley’s spider. Almost, but not quite.
“I know there are those like John Kass who would like me to decry Chicago politics more frequently, and I’ll leave that to his editorial commentary,” Obama said.
Not the politics, just the corruption, I said then, wishing silently that he had decried it all, that he’d stood up years ago and pointed to the list of sleazy deals, pointed an angry finger at the Duffs, the white, Outfit-connected drinking buddies of Daley who received $100 million in affirmative action contracts through City Hall.
That’s an easy political commercial for the Republicans: Mobbed-up white guys party at the old Como Inn with Daley, and they get $100 million in city affirmative action contracts and Daley doesn’t know how it happened and Obama endorses the mayor in the name of reform.
Obama had nothing to do with the Duff deal. But he kept mum. He has endorsed Daley, endorsed Daley’s hapless stooge Todd Stroger for president of the Cook County Board. These are not the acts of a reformer, but of a guy who, as we say in Chicago, won’t make no waves and won’t back no losers.
Obama the reformer is backed by Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Daley boys. He is spoken for by Daley’s own spokesman, David Axelrod. He was launched into his U.S. Senate by machine power broker and state Senate President Emil Jones (D-ComEd).
Sen. Obama did give his word of honor that if elected president, he would retain corruption-busting U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, no easy vow, given that Daley is threatened by Fitzgerald, and that the corruption case against Rezko is about to be handed to the jury.
As a candidate, Obama will do what he has to do to win. My argument is not with him—but with the national political media pack that refuses to look closely at what Chicago is. They’re fixated on what it was, and they think it’s clean now.
And they’ve spent years crafting, then cleaving to their eager and trembling Obama narrative, a tale of great yearning, almost mythic and ardently adolescent, a tale in which Obama is portrayed as a reformer, a dynamic change agent about to do away with the old thuggish politics.
It’s as if Axelrod channeled it, wearing a peaked Merlin hat. Obama is a South Sider and does not hail from Camelot or Mt. Olympus or the lush forests of mythical Narnia.
I’ve joked that reporters feel compelled to hug him, in their copy, as if he were the cuddly faun, the Mr. Tumnus of American politics. But I was only kidding. The real Mr. Tumnus never had Billy Daley or Ted Kennedy carving up Cabinet appointments.
So why the disconnect? Why is Obama allowed to campaign as a reformer, virtually unchallenged by the media, though he’s a product of Chicago politics and has never condemned the wholesale political corruption in his home town the way he condemns those darn Washington lobbyists.
For an answer as to when pundits will ever put Illinois corruption in context, I called on Tom Bevan, executive director of the popular political Web site Real Clear Politics (which directs readers to my column on occasion) and a Chicagoan.
“To a large degree, the media has accepted much of the Obama narrative thus far,” Bevan told me. “He’s risen so quickly, but his history hasn’t been bogged down with an association of Chicago politics and I can’t tell you why exactly, except perhaps that some may have bought into the established narrative and can’t separate themselves from it.”
“And I don’t know if the country understands just how corrupt the system is in Illinois. People don’t see it. They’re flying over us, cruising at 30,000 feet,” Bevan said.
Our Chicago politics sure must seem sweet from that high altitude as journalists fly by. From up there, our politics must smell pretty, like vanilla beans in a jar, or lavender potpourri: you know, something truly authentic and real.
More Rezko dough found March 16, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Tony Rezko.
1 comment so far
ELECTION ’08 | Obama tells Sun-Times it’s hard to keep track of about $250,000 from tainted donor
For the first time, Sen. Barack Obama put a figure Friday to the amount of campaign contributions that indicted political fund-raiser Tony Rezko raised for the senator’s campaigns, and the number — about $250,000 — was far more than he previously acknowledged.
“We believe we have identified all money that is traceable. … It’s hard for me to know precisely. I don’t have the capacity to go back and figure out who did he raise money from. There might be additional dollars,” Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times in an 80-minute interview that focused on his 17-year relationship with Rezko, who has become a lingering issue as Obama seeks the Democratic nomination for president.
This is the breakdown Obama provided for Rezko’s fund-raising:
• About $160,000 for Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate election. Obama has given that money to charity.
• From $50,000 to $60,000 for Obama’s failed attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush in 2000.
• Between $10,000 and $15,000 for Obama’s first election, in 1996, to the Illinois Senate.
• “Somewhat less than that” for Obama’s re-elections to the Illinois Senate in 1998 and 2002.
Obama’s estimate exceeded his campaign staff’s previous estimates of Rezko’s fund-raising during Obama’s 12 years in politics. In November 2006, Obama’s staff estimated Rezko raised $50,000 to $60,000 over the senator’s career. In the last year, Obama’s campaign fund has given charities more than $157,600 in donations it linked to Rezko, his family, friends and business associates.
Rezko is on trial on corruption charges that accuse him of using his influence with Gov. Blagojevich to coerce kickbacks from firms seeking state pension business. Obama hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing, but his name has surfaced in the trial. Prosecutors say Rezko ordered a business associate to use part of a kickback as a contribution to Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign.
On Friday, Obama engaged in a wide-ranging interview that included his 1990 introduction to the housing projects Rezko’s company developed with legal assistance from the law firm where Obama worked, and the 2005 real estate deal in which Obama bought a Kenwood mansion for $1.65 million on the same day Rezko’s wife bought the adjacent vacant lot. Rezko’s wife later sold the Obamas part of the lot.
Obama said he and Rezko used to meet for breakfast or lunch a few times each year, but they might talk daily when Rezko was helping raise money for Obama’s campaigns.
“Michelle and I probably had two or three dinners with him and his wife during the course of six or seven or eight years,” Obama said. “Visited their home in Lake Geneva once for the day. And I have to say that, during that entire time, he never asked me for anything.”
Is Rezko still a friend?
“Yes,” Obama said, “with the caveat if it turns out the allegations are true, then he’s not who I thought he was, and I’d be very disappointed with that.”
And it’s that friendship, Obama said, that probably kept him from realizing it was a mistake to enter into a real estate deal with Rezko.
“Probably because I’d known him for a long time, and he’d acted in an aboveboard manner with me,” he said. “And I considered him a friend. … It’s further evidence that I’m not perfect.”
Sorry, Sen. Obama, eight isn’t enough March 7, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Tony Rezko.
add a comment
Sorry, Sen. Obama, eight isn’t enough
‘Guys, I mean come on. I just answered like eight questions.”
With those few words, Barack Obama ended a Texas news conference where he had come under tough questioning about influence peddler Tony Rezko from Sun-Times columnists Carol Marin and Lynn Sweet and CBS2 reporter Mike Flannery. In fact, Obama dodged the questions.
Try to imagine President Bush, fleeing questions coming at him fast and furious over a controversy, closing a news conference by saying, “Come on, I just answered like eight questions.” Democrats in Congress and liberal interest groups would be shouting coverup. The editorial pages of the national newspapers would be thundering outrage. The late night comedians and left-wing blogs would be heaping ridicule on him.
Or contrast Obama’s avoidance strategy to John McCain’s response to what was universally considered a shoddy New York Times story. It alleged two disillusioned McCain aides eight years ago thought he might have had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist. McCain met with reporters and took every question they had about the article.
Obama is lucky the Rezko affair is a Chicago issue with which national reporters are unfamiliar. And, given what’s known today, it’s hard to see how the Rezko case could wound Obama’s political ambitions. But for that reason, it’s hard to understand his reluctance to answer questions from the Chicago investigative reporters who know the Rezko issues best.
Maybe that’s something Democratic superdelegates ought to consider as they ponder whether to declare for Obama now or wait to make a decision closer to the Democrats’ August convention. They need to know that he will be the strongest candidate for November. In addition to the Rezko issue, Hillary Clinton in recent days has succeeded in raising questions about Obama’s experience, his credentials to be commander in chief and his stance on NAFTA. Obama had the momentum going into Texas and Ohio and outspent Clinton two-to-one, but lost.
With those wins, Clinton urges superdelegates to wait for more voting to determine which candidate now has momentum and the best chance of beating McCain. Obama’s camp counters the math makes it impossible for her to catch up with his delegate count. But there’s the tricky question of what to do about Florida and Michigan, where 2 million Democrats voted but no delegates would be seated because those primaries violated party scheduling rules. A revote is possible, helpful to her.
Obama’s premise is that the superdelegates have to ratify as the nominee whichever candidate ends up with the lead in delegates. That looks like a pretty sure thing for him at the moment. But when you count Florida and Michigan, the popular vote is very close with the two candidates separated by 30,000 votes. Even if maybe she can’t overcome the delegate gap, Clinton could overtake Obama in the popular vote. Then what should superdelegates do? How do you decide, as the Democratic mantra goes, to count every vote?
What irony that would be for a Democratic Party that has spent the last seven years complaining that Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the presidency because Bush had the general election equivalent of delegate strength, the Electoral College vote.
Obama needs to find a way to regain the momentum. Upcoming votes in Wyoming and Mississippi are expected wins for him; then comes crucial Pennsylvania next month where Clinton is favored. A close finish means the superdelegates may actually have to weigh all the political considerations and take responsibility for picking the nominee. That could make for a bitter fight leading up to the convention and recriminations after. The allegiances of two important constituencies — African Americans and women — are at stake. Who will be angrier — and likely to stay at home in November — if their candidate is seen as unfairly losing a razor-close contest?
And how might Obama’s refusal to answer questions about Rezko come in play in deciding his fate?
Obama’s Rezko Problem March 4, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Tony Rezko.
add a comment
‘The Chicago Tribune’s’ Jim Warren discusses Barack Obama’s problem with Tony Rezko.
This is yesterday, Barack Obama unwilling to answer the media’s questions about Tony Rezko and finally runs away from the tough questions.
Obama and Chicago Mores March 3, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Tony Rezko.
add a comment
The Wall Street Journal – by John Fund – March 3, 2008
On Tuesday, Barack Obama may well wrap up the Democratic nomination. Yet how he rose so quickly in Chicago’s famously suspect politics — and who his associates were there — has received little scrutiny.
That may change today as the trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko, Mr. Obama’s friend of two decades and his campaign fund-raiser, gets under way in federal court in Chicago. Mr. Rezko, a master fixer in Illinois politics, is charged with money laundering, attempted extortion, fraud and aiding bribery in an alleged multimillion dollar scheme shaking down companies seeking state contracts.
John McCain’s dealings with lobbyists have properly come under a microscope; why not Mr. Obama’s? Partly, says Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, because the national media establishment has decided that Chicago’s grubby politics interferes with the story line of hope they’ve set out for Mr. Obama. Former Washington Post reporter Tom Edsall, who now teaches journalism at Columbia University, told Canada’s Globe & Mail that “reporters have sometimes allowed themselves to get too much caught up in [Obama] excitement.” Then there are Chicago Republicans, loath to encourage the national party to pounce because some of their own leaders are caught in the Rezko mess.
For its part, the Democratic Party may once again nominate a first-time candidate they haven’t fully vetted politically. Democrats flocked to Michael Dukakis in 1988, ignoring Al Gore’s warnings about Willie Horton; later they were blindsided by revelations about Bill Clinton after he was elected president.
This year, Hillary Clinton made a clumsy attack on Mr. Rezko as a “slum landlord” during one debate. But her campaign has otherwise steered clear — at least until last Friday, when Howard Wolfson, a top Clinton aide, suggested to reporters on a conference call that “the number of questions that we don’t know the answers to about the relationship between Mr. Rezko and Mr. Obama is staggering.” Mr. Obama’s campaign told me they have answered all questions about Mr. Rezko and have no plans to release any further records.
Mr. Obama has admitted that the 2005 land deal that he and Mr. Rezko were involved in was a “boneheaded” mistake, in part because his friend was already rumored to be under federal investigation. The newly elected Mr. Obama bought his $1.65 million home on the same day, June 15, that Mr. Rezko’s wife bought the plot of land next to it from the same seller for $625,000. Seven months later she sold a slice of the land to the trust that Mr. Obama had put the house into, so the senator could expand his garden.
Mr. Obama has strenuously denied suggestions that the same-day sale enabled him to pay $300,000 under the house’s asking price because Mrs. Rezko paid full price for the adjoining lot, or that he asked the Rezkos for help in the matter. Both actions would be clear violations of Senate ethics rules barring the granting or asking of favors.
Still, there are anomalies. Mr. Obama admits that he and Mr. Rezko took a tour of the house before it and the adjoining plot were sold. Financial records given to federal prosecutors a year later show Mrs. Rezko had a salary of only $37,000 and assets of $35,000. In court proceedings at that time, to explain how much his bail should be, Mr. Rezko declared that he had “no income, negative cash flow, no liquid assets.”
So where did the money for Mrs. Rezko’s $125,000 down payment — and the collateral for her $500,000 loan from a local bank controlled by Amrish Mahajan, like Mr. Rezko a Chicago political fixer — come from?
The London Times reports that, three weeks before the land transactions, Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi billionaire living in London, loaned $3.5 million to Mr. Rezko, who was his Chicago business partner. Mr. Auchi’s office says he had “no involvement in or knowledge of” the property purchase. Mr. Auchi is a press-shy property developer (estimated worth: $4 billion) who was convicted of corruption in France in 2003 for his involvement in the Elf affair, the biggest political and corporate fraud inquiry in Europe since World War II. He was fined $3 million and given a 15-month prison term that was suspended provided he committed no further crimes.
Mr. Auchi was also a top official in the Iraqi oil ministry in the 1970s. He has for years vigorously denied charges he had dealings with Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. However, an official report to the Pentagon inspector general in 2004 obtained by the Washington Times cited “significant and credible evidence” of involvement by Mr. Auchi’s companies in the Oil for Food scandal and illicit smuggling of weapons to the Hussein regime.
In 2003, Mr. Auchi began investing in Chicago real estate with Mr. Rezko. In April 2007, after his indictment, Mr. Auchi loaned another $3.5 million to Mr. Rezko, a loan that Mr. Rezko hid from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office. When Mr. Fitzgerald learned that the money was being parceled out to Mr. Rezko’s lawyers, family and friends, he got Mr. Rezko’s bond revoked in January and had him put in jail as a potential flight risk.
In court papers, the prosecutor noted that Mr. Rezko had traveled 26 times to the Middle East between 2002 and 2006, mostly to his native Syria and other countries that lack extradition treaties with the U.S. Curiously, Mr. Auchi has also lent an unknown sum of money to Chris Kelly, who, like Mr. Rezko, was a significant fund-raiser for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (himself under investigation by a federal grand jury as an alleged beneficiary of the Rezko shakedowns). Mr. Kelly is himself under indictment for obstructing an IRS probe into his activities.
Mr. Obama says he has “no recollection” of meeting Mr. Auchi during a 2004 trip the billionaire made to Chicago, and no one believes he knew of his background. While his name will come up in the trial as a beneficiary of Rezko donations (since donated to charity), Mr. Obama will not be called to testify.
There may be nothing more in Mr. Obama’s dealings with Mr. Rezko beyond an “appearance of impropriety.” Still, Mr. Obama does have an obligation to explain how he fits into Chicago politics. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s Karl Rove, is a longtime spoke in the Daley machine that’s dominated Chicago for a half century. Gov. Blagojevich, also part of the machine, shared key fund raisers with Mr. Obama.
“We have a sick political culture, and that’s the environment Barack Obama came from,” Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, told ABC News. He notes that, while Mr. Obama supported ethics reforms as a state senator, he has “been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic politicians.”
Mr. Obama will eventually have to talk about Illinois, if only to clear the air. After John McCain last month was attacked for cozy ties to lobbyists, he held a news conference and answered every question. Hillary Clinton held a White House news conference on Whitewater and her cattle futures. Mr. Obama must do the same for questions about Mr. Rezko and “the Chicago way” of politics. If he doesn’t, they may increasingly haunt his candidacy.
‘Soft’ Press Sharpens Its Focus on Obama March 3, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Louis Farrakhan, Tony Rezko.
add a comment
Obama dismissed the criticism as “nonsense.” But did the exchange mark the end of a long period in which the media have gone easy on the man who could all but clinch the Democratic nomination in tomorrow’s primaries? Are the media going to change the environment that prompted Kristen Wiig, playing a CNN anchor on “Saturday Night Live,” to declare that she and her colleagues “are in the tank for Obama”?
The Illinois senator still hasn’t faced the sort of negative onslaught that generally envelops presidential front-runners. But after a year of defying the laws of journalistic gravity, he is being brought back to earth.
Some of this involves recycled reporting that didn’t get much traction the first time around. Within the last two weeks, ABC’s “World News” has done a story on Obama voting “present” nearly 130 times as an Illinois legislator, two months after that information was on the New York Times front page. “NBC Nightly News” has followed up a two-week-old Times piece about Obama compromising on Senate legislation affecting a nuclear energy company that contributed to his campaign. A “CBS Evening News” segment reviewed a series of negative points — Obama’s controversial pastor, his ties to indicted fundraiser Tony Rezko, voting present, the nuclear contributions and the lack of a flag pin.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton maintains the media have “consistently examined both his public and personal record.” Burton calls suggestions of soft treatment “a false premise that is advocated by a couple of members of the media and the Clinton campaign. The investigative teams at the networks, major national news organizations and the Chicago papers would take great issue with the notion they haven’t examined Barack Obama’s record.” The Chicago newspapers have been the most aggressive by far.
Some conservative commentators, after years of obsessing over Hillary Clinton, are now training their fire on Obama. Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham, appearing at a John McCain event, generated a wave of coverage last week by challenging the media to “peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama.”
In his Times column, Bill Kristol picked up on Obama’s comment in October that he views wearing a flag pin as a substitute for true patriotism. “Obama’s unnecessary and imprudent statement impugns the sincerity or intelligence of those vulgar sorts who still choose to wear a flag pin,” Kristol declared.
Erick Erickson, editor of the blog RedState, wrote that voters should be wary of “the liberal anti-gun former cokehead whose feminist wife hates America.”
Michelle Obama became talk-show fodder when she said on Feb. 18 that “for the first time in my adult life, I’m really proud of my country.” But for the following week, there was no mention of the flap in a Washington Post or New York Times news story, although the Los Angeles Times jumped on the controversy.
There was also little pickup when the Politico reported that a decade ago Obama visited Bernardine Dohrn and William Ayers, the 1960s radicals whose Weather Underground group was involved in two dozen bombings. And the issue of Obama’s dealings with Rezko all but vanished after a brief flurry until the run-up to his trial, which begins today.
Similarly, there was scant media mention of Louis Farrakhan‘s support for Obama until Tim Russert challenged the senator to repudiate that support at last week’s MSNBC debate — making Russert the target of some liberal bloggers who say he went overboard on the issue.
Would Clinton have skated as easily if she were found to have visited radicals tied to violence? Or bought land from an indicted businessman, as in the Rezko case? Or if the pastor of her church had talked about “this racist United States of America,” as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who heads Obama’s church, has?
On Friday, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told reporters there was a “staggering” gap between the Rezko coverage and the volume of questions he fielded about her indicted fundraiser, Norman Hsu. Yet Clinton’s team angered the press again by not telling traveling reporters in Texas that she was flying to New York to appear on “SNL” — intelligence they had to learn from Obama aides.
Still, after a year in which Obama was hailed as the second coming of JFK, will his Teflon coating now be scratched? Tapper says he asked Obama about his patriotism “because obviously Democratic voters think the nominee should be someone who is able to withstand Republican conservative attacks.” He says he noticed such criticism spreading on talk radio, cable shows and blogs, and “to act as if we can ignore other parts of the media because we’re snobby about it . . . then we’re irrelevant, because we’re missing part of the story.
“It’s very difficult to argue that the level of scrutiny of Barack Obama has been the same as the level of scrutiny of other candidates.”
But, Tapper says, holding Obama accountable is difficult because he speaks to reporters infrequently.
RedState’s Erickson says the media haven’t really focused on Obama’s positions. “I’ve spent the last six months accumulating stuff from his voting record. This is an opportunity to define him,” he says.
Erickson concedes that his “cokehead” crack was a distraction, saying he would not join the ranks of partisan commentators who “write in such a hyperbolic way that it destroys their credibility. It’s going to be the template, as with the Clinton-haters, for the Obama-haters to report on the salacious and the rumors.”
But the media don’t need to descend into Rumorland to give a candidate a hard time. After Russert raised the issue of Obama’s pastor at the debate, CNN did a piece on the senator’s relationship with Wright, an admirer of Farrakhan. (Obama says they disagree on some issues.) The Washington Post, followed by the Times, ran a story on Obama trying to reassure Jewish leaders about his commitment to Israel, a controversy that had been brewing for months.
One overlooked aspect of Obama’s success may be his skill at defusing hostile media inquiries. He preempted critics by calling his dealings with Rezko a “boneheaded mistake.” He has talked about the danger of spending “too much time arguing with the refs,” says a new book by Chicago reporter David Mendell. The question is whether Obama can resist that temptation if journalists start tackling him more often.
Reformer: Trial Will Reveal ‘Cesspool’ of Obama Allies March 2, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Tony Rezko.
1 comment so far
Trial for Indicted Fundraiser Tony Rezko Set for Monday
ABC News – by Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz and Avni Patel – February 29, 2008
With the corruption trial of one of Sen. Barack Obama’s longtime friends and supporters set to begin Monday in Chicago, Ill., reform watchdogs say it will reveal the “cesspool” of Illinois politics in which Obama came of age and has said little about in his campaign for president.
“We have a sick political culture,” said Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, “and that’s the environment that Barack Obama came from.”
Stewart says he does not understand why Obama has lectured others about corruption in Washington and Kenya but “been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic politicians.”
There was no immediate comment from the Obama campaign.
The trial Monday involves federal charges of bribery and extortion against Tony Rezko, a real estate developer who became known in Illinois politics as a behind-the-scenes operator and fixer.
While Obama is not considered a target of the Rezko investigation, Stewart says it will shed light on a man who was pivotal to Obama’s political career.
“This wasn’t just some guy who wrote a check once for Barack Obama, it’s someone who was an early supporter and had a personal relationship with Sen. Obama for quite some time,” Stewart said.
Indeed, even after he was elected to the United States Senate, Obama involved Rezko in a land deal that enabled the senator to buy his current home on Chicago’s South Side.
Obama has since called his decision to involve Rezko “a bone-headed mistake.”
“Tony Rezko is all that is wrong with the old kind of politics or any kind of politics,” said the Better Government Association’s Stewart.
The Rezko trial will focus on Rezko’s alleged role in steering Illinois state contracts in exchange for kickbacks and political contributions to Rezko friends.
The most damning examples cited by prosecutors involve Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but several of the contributions were directed to Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign.
A motion filed by federal prosecutors identifies two instances when Rezko directed contributions to an unnamed “political candidate” who has since been identified by Chicago newspapers as Obama.
The Obama campaign says it has donated to charity some $160,000 that can be traced to Rezko or others involved in the corruption investigation.
In his campaign for president, Obama has railed against people like Rezko.
“If you are ready for change, then we can go ahead and tell the lobbyists and the fat cats that their days are over,” he said in a speech last month in Akron, Ohio.
The Better Government Association’s Stewart says Illinois politics is the opposite of the sentiments Obama now praises.
“That’s a noble version he is describing. He is not talking about Illinois when he does that,” said Stewart, who acknowledges Obama was “a cut above” most state legislators and reliably supported ethics legislation.
“I don’t begrudge him for speaking out on it (corruption) in Washington or Kenya. If it’s appropriate, you should say it. To say it’s appropriate in Illinois is a huge understatement,” Stewart said.
Obama’s First Test February 25, 2008Posted by koreanpower999 in 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Tony Rezko.
New York Post – By Nicholas Wapshott
February 24, 2008 — The corruption trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko, due to start in federal court in Chicago tomorrow, comes at a bad time for Barack Obama. The senator from Illinois is surging ahead of his rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race by presenting himself as Mr. Clean, untainted by the corrupt ways of Washington politics.
But Obama’s ability to make the right call on important issues, and his claim to be untainted by politics as usual, is seriously called into doubt by his alliance with the property developer and fast food franchiser Rezko, a close personal friend and one of his most generous donors.
While there is no suggestion that Obama has done anything illegal, the Rezko trial will focus attention upon the propriety of a deal between the senator and Rezko that substantially raised the value of the senator’s sumptuous home on Chicago’s South Side. What Rezko expected from Obama in return remains unclear.
In June 2005, Obama bought a 98-year-old Kenwood mansion from a University of Chicago doctor for $1.65 million, using a $1.69 million advance he received from publishers Crown for his book, “The Audacity of Hope.” The same day Rezko’s wife Rita paid the doctor $625,000 for the empty lot adjoining Obama’s property.
Even though at the time Rezko was under federal investigation for influence-peddling in Illinois Governor Blagojevich’s administration, Obama did business with him, buying for $104,500 a 10-foot wide strip of Rita Rezko’s lot, ostensibly to provide space for a fence. The deal left Mrs. Rezko’s lot too small to build upon, thereby lifting the value of Obama’s home.
Obama denies wrongdoing. “I misgauged the appearance presented by my purchase of the additional land from Mr. Rezko,” Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It was a mistake to have been engaged with him at all in this or any other personal business dealing that would allow him, or anyone else, to believe that he had done me a favor.”
Obama now calls “boneheaded” his decision to continue to consort with Rezko even after a grand jury investigation into his dealings had begun and he has given about $150,000 of Rezko’s campaign contributions to charity.
But that was not the end of the affair. The senator’s claim to have been completely open about his relationship with Rezko was called into doubt on Monday when the senator belatedly admitted that, before he bought his home, he and Rezko visited the property together.
Rezko is a presidential candidate’s nightmare buddy. He stands accused of demanding fake finder’s fees for payments made to Illinois teachers’ and health workers’ state pension funds. And he is accused of defrauding GE Capital out of $10 million in loans for his fast-food franchises.
According to court documents, Rezko is also accused of prompting “at least one other individual” to give money to Obama’s senatorial campaign, then reimbursing him, in violation of federal election law.
Prosecutors have submitted to the court a 26-page list of those Rezko wanted appointed to posts in Illinois Governor Blagojevich’s administration. The list contains those whom Obama recommended for state jobs. On Thursday it was reported that among those Rezko proposed for a job was the real estate agent who conducted the sale of Sen. Obama’s home.
The links between Obama and Rezko that will be on show in the forthcoming trial may expose a chink in Obama’s shining armor. Hard evidence of his at best naivety in the face of political corruption may not come quickly enough to help Hillary Clinton, who must win in Texas and Ohio on March 4 if she is to escape defeat. Most of the coming week in court will be taken up with jury selection.
In one of the early debates Clinton berated Obama for his links to Rezko, whom she called a “slum landlord.” The remark was dismissed by the Obama camp and Clinton has not returned to the attack. She will be sorely tempted to revive the issue this week.
If the Rezko trial comes too late to alert Democratic voters to the murkier side of Obama’s time in Chicago politics, John McCain can be sure to exploit the court-attested fact that the Illinois Senator is not as free from the influence of sleaze as he likes to suggest.