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The news out of Chicago is not good for Governor Rod Blagojevich. Convicted Chicago political operator Antoin “Tony” Rezko is talking to prosecutors about what he knows as far as corruption in Illinois and Chicago politics.

Believe me, it’s plenty.

Jailed political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer who helped launch Barack Obama on his political career, is whispering secrets to federal prosecutors about corruption in Illinois and the political fallout could be explosive.

Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose administration faces multiple federal investigations over how it handed out jobs and money with advice from Rezko, is considered the most vulnerable.

Rezko also was friendly with Obama — offering him a job when he finished law school, funding his earliest political campaigns and purchasing a lot next to his house. But based on the known facts, charges so far and testimony at Rezko’s trial, there’s no indication there’ll be an October surprise that could hurt the Democratic presidential nominee — even though Rezko says prosecutors are pressing him for dirt about Obama.

“I think this strikes fear into the Blagojevich administration and the Statehouse Democrats but not into the Obama campaign,” says state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, a John McCain delegate to the GOP convention but an old friend of Obama.

Should Obama be worried? Not about Rezko. The real estate deal between the two that allowed Obama to purchase his mansion (Rezko bought an adjacent vacant lot saving Obama hundreds of thousands of dollars) and then have Obama do Rezko a favor by purchasing a small strip of that lot for an above market price was borderline legal, certainly unethical, but probably nothing Chicago prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald would want to drag the next president (or sitting president) into court about.

There are other Rezko-Obama dealings such as Obama’s steering state contracts to Rezko’s businesses in exchange for fundraising assistance and campaign contributions. But that kind of thing is done all the time and you’d probably have to arrest just about every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate if a prosecutor would go after lawmakers who greased the palms of cronies and fundraisers with contracts.

So in order to understand why Obama may be sweating, I will have to give you a quick primer on the nature of Chicago politics.

There is a triad in the city that rules in all matters political and most matters economic. The first leg of the triad is the “legitimate” businessman. In order to start a business or expand one, you obviously need a bunch of licenses, permissions, and approvals from several city departments. You also need a little “juice” (used to be called “clout”). Nothing gets done in Chicago without greasing the palms of the right people either by gifts, promises of future considerations, or outright bribes.

This is where the second triad of the Chicago power structure comes into play. Well connected operators like Tony Rezko will, for a piece of the action or a kickback (“pay for play”) grease the wheels of government and get the job done allowing the legitimate businessman to operate.

The third leg of the triad is the politician. Connected to both the legitimate business world and the shady, half underground world of the Tony Rezkos in the city, the politician steers business his way or to his ward thus enriching himself and bringing home the bacon for his constituents.The politicians also staff the numerous bureaucracies at City Hall through complicated patronage schemes. This ensures a rock solid loyalty to the man who rides herd on all of it from above; Mayor Richard Daley.

But then there is a sub-strata that supports the entire rotten edifice. “The outfit” we call it here. It is the remnant of the original Al Capone gang that never left the city – updated and vastly more organized, disciplined, and improved – and has its fingers in so many legitimate pies that it is impossible sometimes to separate the politician from the businessman from the mobster. The outfit has a lot of cash that both the politician and the businessman can tap into. The Rezko’s of the city move easily in and out of the legitimate and illegitimate world, acting as a bridge when necessary in order to keep both the businessman and the politician’s hands clean.

They all mingle, intertwine, do each other favors, muscle out those who don’t play the game, and steal as much taxpayer money as they believe they can get away with.

I am sorry if that was a little longer than a “short primer” but there really is no easy way to paint a picture of the spider’s web of connections that now may entrap Obama.

One strand of that web holds interest for prosecutor Fitzgerald. It is the Giannoulias family and their ownership of The Broadway Bank. Specifically, the bank’s vice president and chief loan officer Alexi Giannoulias who has, to put it mildly, a rather checkered history:

A man who has long been dogged by charges that the bank his family owns helped finance a Chicago crime figure will host a Windy City fund-raiser tonight for Sen. Barack Obama.

Alexi Giannoulias, who became Illinois state treasurer last year after Obama vouched for him, has pledged to raise $100,000 for the senator’s Oval Office bid.

Before he promised to raise funds for Obama, Giannoulias bankrolled Michael “Jaws” Giorango, a Chicagoan twice convicted of bookmaking and promoting prostitution.

Giannoulias is so tainted by reputed mob links that several top Illinois Dems, including the state’s speaker of the House and party chairman, refused to endorse him even after he won the Democratic nomination with Obama’s help.

Giannoulias was the bank’s vice president and chief loan officer for most of the more than $15 million in loans.

He was not charged with breaking any laws. The Obama campaign disputed any suggestion that Obama is tarnished by the association.

“Barack Obama has a long record of fighting for ethics reform from his days as a state senator,” a campaign rep said.

Alexi also approved millions in loans for Rezko’s various real estate projects. Obama used Broadway Bank for both his personal business and for his Senate campaign fund.

At this point, a reasonable observer would say that I am just touting another “guilt by association” meme. Au contraire, mon ami. Read on, McDuff:

(4) The Giannoulias family was involved with Obama as far back as his first state senate campaign in 1996. It has been long rumored here in Chicago that Obama obtained a sweetheart deal on his first town home here in Chicago — which he could not have afforded otherwise — and guess who the financing came from for that house? We’ve been told it was Broadway Bank, the Giannoulias bank. Now, this sets up a scenario where the Giannoulias family helps Obama with his campaign finances and gets him deeper in their pocket with his sweetheart mortgage deal (for the first home he owned that he could not afford) – all in exchange for quid pro quo to be determined later.

(5) One favor political Chicago claims Obama did for the Giannoulias family was in 2006 when, out of the blue, 29 year old Alexi Giannoulias, with no experience, and without ever having voted before, decides to run for State Treasurer of Illinois. Also out of the blue, Barack Obama endorses Alexi Giannoulias for State Treasurer. This was a SHOCK to everyone in Chicago — and Giannoulias would have never become State Treasurer without Obama’s help. In political circles here, it has always been believed that this endorsement was bought years ago with that sweetheart mortgage deal Broadway Bank arranged for Obama to buy his town house.

(6) So, the Tony Rezko sweetheart deal was not the first magic home loan Obama ever received to buy a house he could not afford.

There’s more to this that looks like it will break soon. We were STUNNED when we read Sneed’s column because we never in a million years believed Fitz would actually be able to take down Obama.

The Sneed column referenced contains this cryptic entry:
Sneed hears rumbles political fund-raiser/fixer Tony Rezko, who is now singing sweetly to the feds from his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, has been talking about his “dealings” with a Chicago bank, which has political connections.

Clearly, Obama’s legal Achilles heel is not directly related to Rezko but rather his dealings with the Giannoulis family and Broadway Bank. And if Fitzy can turn young Alexi – now Illinois State Treasurer – Lord knows what will spill out and complicate an Obama presidency.

For in truth, there is no chance this will come out before the election. Fitzgerald has proven himself to be a very careful prosecutor – especially when aiming high – and will no doubt seek to build his case slowly. He may end up not even indicting Obama, seeing the enormous problems in trying to bring Obama to trial. But you can bet that Obama will be interviewed several times by the prosecutor and will himself, be on tenterhooks as to his fate.

Obama was simply caught up in business as usual Chicago politics – where there are times you can’t tell the difference between the businessman, the politician, and the mobster. It is from this political culture our next president will have sprung.

Kind of makes you wish for the good old days of Al Capone. At least you knew who the crooks were.


Welcome Instapundit readers.

For the record, my inclusion of the Chicago political primer was so that the Obama-Rezko-Giannoulis connection could be seen in context. Why would Obama endorse a mob banker for State Treasurer, going against the expressed wishes of the leader of his party in the statehouse? The same reason Rezko approached the Broadway bank for a $13 million loan for his real estate projects. In Chicago, it’s not who you are but what you can do for me. The payoff for Obama was Giannoulis raising a ton of money for him in his presidential campaign. This was set up by Obama’s endorsement of Giannoulis for treasurer which in turn was set up by almost certainly a generous loan arrangement on Obama’s first townhome run through Broadway.

Interestingly, Rezko was also indicted in a check bouncing matter after having written almost a half million dollars in bad checks in Vegas. While there has been speculation in the Chicago press that Broadway Bank kept Rezko’s head above water with low cost loans for much of the last 3 years when his businesses were bankrupt, the fact that those checks were drawn on an account at Broadway Bank probably means that the Giannoulis family cut Rezko loose, seeing him as a liability.

How badly do you think Tony wants to get back at the Giannoulis family?


Being from the Chicago area and having written about Chicago politics off and on since I began this site, many bloggers, reporters, and radio hosts have asked for my thoughts on the relationship between Barack Obama and the Chicago political Machine. Invariably, my answer is necessarily shallow and incomplete because in order to do justice to the question, many aspects of his relationship to parts of the Machine must be fleshed out while other connections must be found to the reformers and their allies. In short, there is no easy answer to the question of Barack Obama’s status as a Chicago politician and trying to pigeonhole him as Machine hack or courageous reformer just doesn’t tell the whole story.

That’s because overall, the one thing that informs Obama’s career – the one defining characteristic of his rise has been an overarching ambition to achieve high office. This has forced him to make alliances with individual Machine politicians like Illinois state Senate Leader Emil Jones and fixers like Tony Rezko. At the same time, he has kept one foot firmly planted in the reformers camp, running for the state senate out of a district that elected legendary reformer Alice Palmer while occassionally talking the talk of an anti-Machine crusader.

How does he get away with it? Obama is a very clever, very tough, very shifty politician as we have seen these past 17 months. He is both of the Machine and an outsider. And the thing that makes these seemingly disparate parts whole is the engine of his ambition. Whatever suits his plans at the moment is what determines where he comes down on an issue or a personality.

It has been fascinating to watch Obama supporters try and defend Obama’s cozying up to the Machine over the years. They refer to “building bridges” or “reaching out” to all factions in order to pass a bill. This paean to Obama in today’s Washington Post by author of the V I Warshawski crime novels Sara Paretsky that purports to “explain” Obama’s Chicago career is an example of what I mean:

Like me, Barack Obama arrived in Chicago with high ideals and a passion for social justice. Unlike me, he found that his road does lead through electoral politics. One of my novels, “Burn Marks,” shows how an idealistic person can be squeezed by the political process. In that book, my fictional president of the county board, Boots Meagher, gets involved in an arson-for-hire scheme that leads to murder and almost gets V I Warshawski killed when she investigates. At the end of the novel, after V I gets too close a look at the lengths to which some people will go to keep the right friends friendly, she gets a key reminder from an old pal: “This is Chicago, sweetheart, not Minneapolis.”

That book presents a snapshot of the most sordid aspect of Chicago and Cook County politics, but I believe that Obama has found a way of threading the needle between working with the established powers and maintaining a commitment to social justice. He ran for Congress in the 2000 primary against four-term incumbent Rep. Bobby Rush. He steered clear of the key players in the Illinois Democratic Party to run as clean a campaign as possible, and he lost resoundingly. Since then, he has built essential bridges without seeming to have lost his integrity.

“Threading a needle” is a misnomer. Obama’s “commitment to social justice” is exactly as deep as it needs to be at the moment. And if his stand on an issue like abortion or gun control causes problems, he simply changes it and then claims he never did – even in the face of quotes from speeches that make him out to be a liar. It is breathtaking. And it is shameless. But it has stood him well over the years.

And Paretsky is laughably uninformed of she believes Obama eschewed endorsements from the Machine in his 2000 race against Bobby Rush in order to run a “clean campaign.” The fact is, Rush had all the major endorsements locked up already, giving Obama, who would have killed for an endorsement from Jones, Stroger, or Daley himself, nowhere to go for major support but the weak and ineffective reformers he had been lukewarm toward for 4 years. Obama lost badly and took away a valuable lesson in defeat; next time I run I’m going to have the Machine in my corner.

Enter Emil Jones, long time Democratic leader of the state senate and the consummate Machine insider. The story of how Obama came to run for the United States Senate is revealing not only of Obama’s overweening ambition but also of his unadulterated gumption when his own career is at issue.

The story, perhaps apocryphal, has Obama walking into Jones’ office following the ascension of the Democrats to majority status in the state senate for the first time in 26 years in 2002. The way Jones tells it, Obama told Jones he had “the power to elect the next senator from the state of Illinois. Jones responded, “Do you know anybody I could make a US senator?” Obama reportedly replied “Me.”

Rather than kick the young whippersnapper out of his office on his ear, Jones chuckled and spent the next year building Obama up. How did he do that?

When asked about his legislative record, Obama rattles off several bills he sponsored as an Illinois lawmaker.

He expanded children’s health insurance, made the state Earned Income Tax Credit refundable for low-income families, required public bodies to tape closed-door meetings to make government more transparent and required police to videotape interrogations of homicide suspects.

And the list goes on.

It’s a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what’s interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.

It was Jones who attached his name to those 26 pieces of legislation. And it was Jones who also gave Obama some other high profile issues to shine on:
Jones further helped raise Obama’s profile by having him craft legislation addressing the day-to-day tragedies that dominated local news headlines.

For instance, Obama sponsored a bill banning the use of the diet supplement ephedra, which killed a Northwestern University football player, and another one preventing the use of pepper spray or pyrotechnics in nightclubs in the wake of the deaths of 21 people during a stampede at a Chicago nightclub. Both stories had received national attention and extensive local coverage.

Obama supporters never mention why Jones might have been so forthcoming in his support of this unknown state senator who had been shellacked by 30 points in his one campaign for higher office. The idea that a Machine insider would do anything for anybody without expecting something in return is ludicrous. So just what did Jones want from Obama?
Last June, to prove his commitment to government transparency, Obama released a comprehensive list of his earmark requests for fiscal year 2008. It comprised more than $300 million in pet projects for Illinois, including tens of millions for Jones’ Senate district.

Shortly after Jones became Senate president, I remember asking his view on pork-barrel spending.

I’ll never forget what he said:

“Some call it pork; I call it steak.”

Spoken like a true Chicago pol.

We see a similar pattern of behavior in his relationship with Tony Rezko, the convicted fraudster and political fixer who took Obama under his wing when he was a young attorney working at Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a small but well connected law firm that was assisting Rezko and his associates with getting city and state contracts to rehab low income housing.

The relationship with Rezko is perhaps the most complex of Obama’s life. Rezko was apparently the initiator of many of the contacts between the two. While Obama mostly saw Rezko for what he was – someone who could do him a lot of good when it came time to run for office. Were the two men friends? In the tangled world of Chicago politics, it would be more accurate to say that the two were “associates.” Rezko almost certainly annoyed Obama at times with his efforts to get closer to the young man while Obama, clearly seeing electoral consequences with getting too chummy with a character like Rezko no doubt tried at times to keep him at arms length.

We see this most clearly in Rezko helping Obama acquire his mansion. It seems unbelievable but apparently, Rezko did indeed show up almost out of the blue with an offer to buy the vacant lot next door to the mansion thus making it possible for Obama to save around $600,000 on the purchase price. The sellers of the house have confirmed as much as they also confirmed that there were no other bidders on the property. This is not out of the ordinary in that Rezko was, as I said, usually the initiator of contact between the two. For his part, Obama would then use Rezko as a bundler for his political campaigns as well as using Rezko’s extensive contacts in the Chicago real estate development community to meet others who could shake the campaign money tree.

Obama used Rezko’s “generosity” in order to buy his dream home even though at the time, Rezko was being investigated for the crimes that are sending him to jail and Obama knew it. What did Rezko want in return? Continued access to Obama is certainly one price the senator paid for Rezko’s largess. There is some evidence that came out at the trial that Rezko was in contact with Washington lawmakers, trying to get them to intervene with the State Department who had denied a visa to one of Rezko’s business partners, billionaire Nadhmi Auchi. Obama denies he or anyone in his office contacted Foggy Bottom on behalf of Auchi or Rezko but such interference is common and there would be little evidence of it anyway.

So the question of why a “reformer” would be hanging around with a shady Chicago fixer answers itself; because both men found they could do each other a lot of good. For years, Rezko was Obama’s goto guy for campaign money while Obama worked diligently at the state level to steer lucrative rehab and other contracts to his associate. Perfect political symbiosis and very revealing of Obama’s working with the Machine whenever doing so would help his career.

What do the small group of dedicated Chicago reformers think of Obama? The one word that continually escapes their lips when describing Obama is “pragmatist.” On several high profile issues, Obama has indeed supported them – if rather tepidly at times. But on some key endorsements, Obama has chosen to back the Machine hack rather than the reform candidate. The case of Dorothy Tillman is instructive. A corrupt, hard nosed woman, she was famous for drawing a gun in a city council meeting. The reformers put up an excellent, well qualified candidate to run against her in the Democratic primary:

Just three months before Obama made his endorsement, the Lakefront Outlook community newspaper ran a three-part investigative series exposing flagrant cronyism and possible tax-law violations that centered on Tillman and her biggest pet project, a taxpayer-funded cultural center built across the street from her ward office that had been hemorrhaging money since its inception.

In the end, Tillman lost the election despite Obama’s endorsement, which critics said countered his calls for clean government. Obama told the Chicago Tribune that he had backed Tillman because she was an early supporter of his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign.

Tillman was also a close ally of Mayor Daley and Cook County boss John Stroger – two men who Obama absolutely needed on his side in his run for the presidency. Indeed, Obama also endorsed Daley himself, proclaiming that city hall had been “cleaned up” thanks to the Mayor’s efforts. The rank cynicism of saying that he was endorsing the man who made city hall a cesspool of corruption in the first place was visible to anyone who cared to look.

The fact that both sides in this debate over Obama’s ties – or lack of them – to the Machine have ammunition for their arguments should tell you a lot about how Obama has managed this sticky, complicated relationship over the years. But there is little doubt that he was nurtured by the Machine, cut his teeth using the tactics of the Machine – as when in his first state senate race, he had all the other candidate’s ballot petitions thrown out by challenging the signatures – and in the end, allowed the Machine to embrace him as their candidate for president of the United States. Many of his top campaign aides are connected to the Machine in one way or another. And, of course, he moved his campaign headquarters from Washington to Chicago which no doubt pleased Mayor Daley.

The biggest question I have is will this complex dance with the Chicago Machine continue if Obama wins the presidency? What’s the payoff for Daley and his cronies? To believe that those fellows support a candidate out of altruism is loony.

And maybe its time the American people started asking themselves the same question.

By: Rick Moran at 10:11 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Campaign Notebook: Obama defends species act...

For a candidate who touts a mantra of "Change" until people turn a little green around the gills whenever they hear it, Obama better be careful. Even a cursory examination of his record in Chicago as a state senator bringing "change" to public housing would cause voters to ask some serious questions about his competence.

This devastating piece in the Boston Globe on just what Obama’s leadership on developing government-private housing projects did to public housing in Chicago should open a few eyes:

The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can’t afford to live anywhere else.

But it’s not safe to live here.

About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale – a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.

Grove Parc has become a symbol for some in Chicago of the broader failures of giving public subsidies to private companies to build and manage affordable housing – an approach strongly backed by Obama as the best replacement for public housing.

As a state senator (and as a member of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland - a law firm that handled much of the legal work for developers seeking to partner with the city and state in building or rehabbing public housing units), Obama pushed hard to finance these projects back in the 1990’s. The results are seen above.

But is there more to Obama’s support of these projects? Did they have a political reason for being touted by the candidate?

The campaign did not respond to questions about whether Obama was aware of the problems with buildings in his district during his time as a state senator, nor did it comment on the roles played by people connected to the senator.

Among those tied to Obama politically, personally, or professionally are:

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this winter and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.

Allison Davis, a major fund-raiser for Obama’s US Senate campaign and a former lead partner at Obama’s former law firm. Davis, a developer, was involved in the creation of Grove Parc and has used government subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,500 units in Chicago, including a North Side building cited by city inspectors last year after chronic plumbing failures resulted in raw sewage spilling into several apartments.

Antoin "Tony" Rezko, perhaps the most important fund-raiser for Obama’s early political campaigns and a friend who helped the Obamas buy a home in 2005. Rezko’s company used subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,000 apartments, mostly in and around Obama’s district, then refused to manage the units, leaving the buildings to decay to the point where many no longer were habitable.

Campaign finance records show that six prominent developers – including Jarrett, Davis, and Rezko – collectively contributed more than $175,000 to Obama’s campaigns over the last decade and raised hundreds of thousands more from other donors. Rezko alone raised at least $200,000, by Obama’s own accounting.

The partnerships were an entree for Obama into the high powered world of fat cat political donors. And as far as whether Obama knew of the problems with the units, the file cabinets at Obama’s law firm are stuffed with pleas from ordinary citizens asking the firm – which handled many landlord-tenant disputes in the past – to intervene with the developers and get them to fix things like running water and problems with heaters.

Those pleas fell largely on deaf ears as the law firm took hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from these developers to represent their interests and help them through the maze of paperwork required to receive the grants from the city and state to rehab or develop the housing projects.

The key player was, of course, Tony Rezko. The now convicted developer/political operator brought Obama along and introduced him to several of the city’s major players in the development community – players who later would figure prominently in his fundraising activities for the senate and early presidential efforts. At the time – the early and mid 1990’s – Chicago was in the midst of an enormous redevelopment craze and the developers were looking to get in on the action.

Obama and his law firm were more than happy to oblige.

But today, thousands of those units are in the process of being condemned or are nearly unlivable. While not directly responsible, the fact is that Obama aggressively pushed the idea of city/private partnerships in public housing and that it became a spectacular failure.
All the more reason to look at Obama’s mantra of "change" with a more jaundiced eye.

This post originally appears in The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 9:09 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

Maggie's Farm linked with A few Saturday links... Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Obama on Clinton at unity rally: 'She rocks'...

How many lies must Obama tell before he falls off his perch as an “Agent of Change” and comes back down to earth and is recognized as a gifted but flawed politician, no better and no worse than McCain or Hillary Clinton for that matter?

Lying about one’s personal affairs in order to avoid taking a political hit is an art form that most politicians must eventually master if they are to survive. All of us have some kind of skeleton in the closet whether it’s our own or someone close to us. Beyond that, innocent situations can be twisted by opponents and unfriendly media into the appearance of wrongdoing. Eventually, just about everyone will come face to face with a situation where a choice will present itself; tell the truth and risk the wrath of the voters or lie and hope no one catches you.

In Obama’s case, he has lied about the extent of his relationship with Tony Rezko from the beginning. And yesterday, the chickens came home to roost.

Prior to yesterday, Obama described his relationship with Rezko in casual terms:

Mr. Obama says he never did any favors for Mr. Rezko, who raised about $150,000 for his campaigns over the years and was once one of the most powerful men in Illinois. There is no sign that Mr. Obama, who declined to be interviewed for this article, did anything improper.

Mr. Obama has portrayed Mr. Rezko as a one-time fund-raiser whom he had occasionally seen socially. But interviews with more than a dozen political and business associates suggest that the two men were closer than the senator has indicated.


When Mr. Obama first fielded questions about Mr. Rezko last fall, he said they had had lunch once or twice a year and had socialized with their wives “two to four times.”


A “one time fundraiser?” Occasional socializing?

That was then. This is now:

Trying to put his past with Antoin “Tony” Rezko behind him, presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday said he never thought the nowindicted Chicago businessman would try to take advantage of him because his old friend had never asked for a political favor.

But in a 90-minute interview with Tribune reporters and editors, Obama disclosed that Rezko had raised more for Obama’s earlier political campaigns than previously known, gathering as much as $250,000 for the first three offices he sought.


Rezko helped bankroll all of Obama’s subsequent campaigns except his presidential bid. Rezko was on Obama’s campaign committee in his failed run against U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and gathered between $50,000 and $75,000 of the estimated $600,000 raised in that race, Obama said.

Rezko also was on the finance committee for Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate run. “My best assessment is that he raised $160,000 during my U.S. Senate primary,” he said, adding that those funds had been given to charity.

At first, Obama claimed that Rezko raised no more than $50,000 for his campaigns – which was a lie. Any politician who doesn’t have a good idea how much an important fundraiser like Rezko raises for him wouldn’t be winning many elections. The figure rose to $150,000 and now stands at $250,000.

Any bets on how high that number will eventually go?

Beyond that is the extent of his friendship with Rezko – something both Obama and the campaign have sought to minimize since day one by simply telling outright lies about how well the two men knew each other.

Even Obama’s statements about the purchase of his house were full of falsehoods as far as the reason Rezko went in on the deal.

At first, Obama downplayed the entire matter:

“I don’t recall exactly what our conversations were or where I first learned, and I am not clear what the circumstnces were where he made a decision that he was interested in the property,” Obama reportedly said.

“I may have mentioned to him the name of [a developer and] he may at that point have contacted that person. I’m not clear about that,” he said.


That was then. This is now:

But they talked about the upcoming sales. “He said, ‘I might be interested,’ ” Obama recalled. “My response was, ‘Well, that would be fine.’”

Obama added: “This is an area where I can see a lapse in judgment.” He said his motivation was “if this lot is going to be developed, here’s somebody I knew. So I didn?t object.”


In his first accounts of the purchase, Obama did not divulge that tour. He said Friday that he simply didn’t feel the information was salient and insisted the tour didn’t mean he and Rezko coordinated their purchases.

Is this plausible? Your friend of 20 years is buying the lot next to your dream home (although the sellers insist they gave no “discount” to Obama they also said that they wished to sell both the lot and house at the same time which Obama confirms in the Trib interview) and you don’t “coordinate” the sale in any way? This after touring the property with your friend and discussing possible development of the lot next door?

Obama is asking us to take an awful lot on faith – faith in his truthfulness.

Finally, in the matter of Reverend Wright, we are asked to believe that in a 20 year relationship with the pastor, he never once uttered the kind of vicious racial and anti-American statements that were revealed yesterday:

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Is that true? Rich Lowry did a little digging:

Before he ever thought he would have to deploy Clintonesque spin to try to get himself out of a campaign controversy, Barack Obama wrote (an achingly good) memoir. In the book, Obama makes it clear that Wright when he first got to know him was pretty much the same Wright we’re getting to know now (the one that Obama is at pains to say is on the verge of retirement). Wright was striking some of the same notes, saying racially venomous things and attacking the bombing of Hiroshima. Note this passage about the first sermon Obama heard from Wright, the source ultimately of the title of Obama’s second book and one of the central themes of his presidential campaign:

“It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere…That’s the world! On which hope sits!”

And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world. While the boys next to me doodled on their church bulletin, Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpsville and Hiroshima, the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the State House. As the sermon unfolded, though, the stories of strife became more prosaic, the pain more immediate. The reverend spoke of the hardship that the congregation would face tomorrow, the pain of those far from the mountaintop, worrying about paying the light bill…

Is it possible Barack Obama forgot the things that Reverend Wright preached? Or, more frighteningly, is it possible that Obama can’t recognize hate speech and anti-American rants when he hears them?

And then there’s this curious comment from his Wright “Mea Culpa” quoted above:

When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments.

“At the time?” People are still digging but no one seems to be able to come up with any comments “condemning” anything Wright has ever said that occurred anywhere near the beginning of his campaign for president. He condemned s Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic statements (not the man) when it became known that Wright’s Church bestowed the “Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Trumpeteer” named after Wright’s church’s magazine that featured the racist demagogue on the cover:

“I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan,” Obama said in the statement. “I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.”

This is certainly a long time after “the beginning” of his presidential run – almost a year.

And what do we make of this excerpt from his book Dreams of my Father where he specifically mentions Wright’s “radical” reputation:

In his 1993 memoir “Dreams from My Father,” Obama recounts in vivid detail his first meeting with Wright in 1985. The pastor warned the community activist that getting involved with Trinity might turn off other black clergy because of the church’s radical reputation.

What exactly did Obama think Wright’s “radical reputation” was all about?

Obama’s statement published at Huffingtonpost is at best a careful dissembling of the truth and at worst a tissue of lies as this piece at American Thinker makes clear:

We noticed on the videotaped sermons that when Rev. Wright fires up the crowd, they jump to their feet. A Harvard-trained lawyer like Obama inserting the phrase “sat in the pews” knows exactly what he is doing. If he was on his feet applauding and shouting approval like so many other Trinity congregants, then this statement becomes true, if utterly misleading.

It is time for the Obamamaniacs to wake up and come down from the mountaintop. Support him for president if you must but base it on his positions on the issues and his abilities not on his perceived messianic visions of a new kind of politics – “post racial” or “post partisan” or any other unique attribute that his leadership supposedly will bring out.

Barack Obama is just another politician – devious when he has to be, vague when it suits him, and a liar when necessity calls. May this incident involving Reverend Wright open the eyes of most of those who have lost themselves in Obama’s rhetorical fog so that they can see who and what they are supporting for President of the United States.

By: Rick Moran at 1:04 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

CATEGORY: Obama-Rezko

For a United States Senator, Barack Obama has been doing a lot of explaining about the company he has kept for the last 17 years or so.

Take some Joe Blow Alderman off the streets of Chicago and examine his friends and acquaintances and you’re bound to come up with a couple of unsavory characters that straddle the line of legality with regard to city contracts or their business dealings.

But Obama is not some regular Machine pol juicing the way for his ward heeling friends so they can grow fat and rich at taxpayer expense. He is a United States Senator and the Democratic Party’s frontrunner for President of the United States. One would think a higher standard might be in order regarding such a man’s associates.

One would think.

The constant refrain of Obama defenders is that he is being unfairly criticized because his problematic friends and acquaintances represent nothing more than “guilt by association.” Taken on a case by case basis, such a defense might ring true. But Obama’s problem is that he has so many friends and associates where “guilt by association” is the explanation given by his campaign that one begins to wonder when we can declare the candidate just plain “guilty” of using horrendous judgment and question whether his connection to some of these characters actually goes beyond innocence of wrongdoing.


Former Weather Underground member and unrepentant terrorist bomber William Ayers was one of Obama’s earliest political supporters. Neither Obama or Ayers will comment on the extent of their relationship but it is clear that they have had contact several times over many years. They have participated in several forums at the University of Chicago together where Ayers is a professor and even served on the same Board of Directors overseeing the far left Woods Fund.

“Guilt by association?” Some enterprising journalist might want to ask Obama what he was doing paling around with an unreconstructed radical who spent 10 years on the run from the FBI and whose views on America or so out of the mainstream as to make him a pariah even among liberals. He must have found something attractive about Ayers to continue what was described by a friend of both men as a “friendship.” He may disavow the tactics used by Ayers but how about his ideology?

A politician can grow and change their views on a variety of subjects. This may be what happened to Obama over the years as his radicalism may have been tempered by both the reality of running for office and a sincere re-examination of his worldview. But shouldn’t his long term relationship with this despicable character call into question at the very least Obama’s judgment?

When decent folk would never dream of associating in any way with such a man as Bill Ayers, what does that say about the candidate? He could have refused appearing in the same forums with him. He could have turned down the spot on the board of the Woods Fund. But he didn’t. And so far, no explanation has been given by the campaign beyond “guilt by association.”


An even stronger case can be made that Obama’s relationship with this anti-Semitic, Farrakhan supporting, race baiting preacher should be seen as beyond an innocent interpretation of the “guilt by association” theme. Wright heads up a church chosen by Obama after what he himself calls a long search specifically because of the preacher’s sermons and his beliefs.

What are those beliefs?

Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor says blacks should not sing “God Bless America” but “God damn America.”

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side, has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is “inflammatory rhetoric,” including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own “terrorism.”

In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

Let me ask you, gentle reader, does anyone in your family talk like this?

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he told his congregation.

Now if you or I had heard our minister or priest utter sentiments like that, what would you have done? I believe it is not beyond imagining that most Americans would have gotten up from their seats and walked out of the church never to return.

And Obama’s reaction?

Sen. Obama told the New York Times he was not at the church on the day of Rev. Wright’s 9/11 sermon. “The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification,” Obama said in a recent interview. “It sounds like he was trying to be provocative,” Obama told the paper.

Again the question must be raised. Rather than simply repudiating the comments, what is the front runner for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States doing attending this church? What in God’s name is Obama thinking when he hears this kind of rabid anti-Americanism spewing from the mouth of this racist demagogue?

“Guilt by association?” Or guilty of stupidity and arrogance? When an overwhelming majority of citizens would go far beyond “repudiating” Wright’s remarks and want nothing whatsoever to do with him, it calls into question Obama’s fitness for the office of President when he makes mealy mouthed explanations as he did to the Times. Can we afford someone as president who might actually sympathize, although not agree with the Ahmadinejad’s of the world when they start spouting their hateful rhetoric against America? Will he see them as simply trying to be “provocative?”

He’s heard it before and did nothing. Why would we expect him to stand up for America when his country is being trashed by the dictators of the world like Hugo Chavez?


Here is where Obama’s relationships go far beyond “guilt by association” and enters the realm of deliberate obfuscation and perhaps even lying.

Obama’s ties to this scam artist and crook go far beyond what he told the New York Times – that he saw Rezko a couple of times a year and that he socialized with Rezko and his wife about 4 times a year.

Mr. Obama has portrayed Mr. Rezko as a one-time fund-raiser whom he had occasionally seen socially. But interviews with more than a dozen political and business associates suggest that the two men were closer than the senator has indicated.

The New York Times certainly has a gift for understatement. An FBI mole, John Thomas, who was working the Rezko case as a partner of one of Rezko’s associates had this to say about the extent of how many times the two men saw each other:

Sources said Thomas helped investigators build a record of repeat visits to the old offices of Rezko and former business partner Daniel Mahru’s Rezmar Corp., at 853 N. Elston, by Blagojevich and Obama during 2004 and 2005. ...

Both politicians relied on Rezko for fund-raising connections. Obama was in the thick of his successful run for the U.S. Senate in 2004. Now in the glare of a presidential campaign, Obama has donated to charity $157,835 from contributions to his Senate campaign that he has linked to Rezko.

This is the kind of lie that will come back to haunt Obama as the Rezko trial proceeds. At every step Obama has sought to hide, to minimize, to dismiss his relationship with Rezko as a one sided affair – that of an eager Chicago fixer wanting to get close to an up and coming state senator. Instead, the picture that will almost certainly be revealed during Rezko’s trial is that Obama and Rezko were close associates with Rezko being a crucial part of Obama’s rise in politics while Obama for his part, aided Rezko in his business dealings.

How? By the time honored political tool known as “the drop by.”

Suppose you are a property developer meeting with foreign businessmen trying to convince them to invest in your plan. Suddenly, a United States senator shows up at your meeting to greet the foreigners, do a little backslapping, and thus give legitimacy and “juice” to the developer making it easier for the foreigners to trust him. The senator is in and out in just a few minutes. But the impact of his visit is not lost on the foreign businessmen.

This is exactly what Obama did for Rezko on several occassions:

While it is not clear what Mr. Rezko got from the relationship, he liked to display his alliances with politicians, including Mr. Obama.

In one instance, when he was running for the Senate, Mr. Obama stopped by to shake hands while Mr. Rezko, an immigrant from Syria, was entertaining Middle Eastern bankers considering an investment in one of his projects.”

The above via Rezko Watch who adds this:

This “dropping in” appears to be very much a part of a tit-for-tat, the exchanging of political favors between Rezko and Obama—Rezko raised funds and contributed to the political ascendance of Obama. In exchange, Obama obligingly “dropped in” while Rezko just happened to be entertaining Middle Eastern bankers whom he wanted to impress with his connections and that he’d like to have as investors in his real estate developments in Chicago.

This is a favor done for a friend. It is not illegal. It is not even unethical – except it flies in the face of Mr. Obama’s contention that he “never did any favors” for Tony Rezko. That statement is at the very least a shading of the truth. And it was made to hide the extent of his relationship with a very unsavory character.

And it isn’t just Obama’s relationship with Rezko that is at issue. The candidate has yet to explain the extent of his relationship with several Rezko associates who donated money to his campaign – all at the behest of Rezko. One contribution had to be returned by Obama because Rezko reimbursed the donor out of his own pocket.

All of this, according to the Obama campaign and numerous apologists, is simple “guilt by association.” They claim that Obama has no connection to Rezko’s activities for which he has been indicted and is standing trial.

Except, of course, that Rezko was using the money he extorted from companies wanting to do business with the state and then turned around and made political contributions using that same money to Obama and other Illinois politicians.

In the government’s case against Rezko, prosecutors allege kickback payments were diverted to others to make campaign contributions to Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign because Rezko had already made the maximum federal contribution. Obama is not named in the government’s document but his campaign has not disputed that Obama is the politician who received the money from Rezko allies, something backed up by campaign disclosure records. Money linked to the straw donations has already been contributed to charity, Obama aides said.

Obama has returned more than $150,000 of that money. There is probably more but it is admittedly difficult to find given the lengths to which Rezko went to conceal his activities. And the ultimate question that hangs over Obama like the Sword of Damocles:

What did he know and when did he know it?

Rezko, Auchi, Alsammarae, Wright, Ayers – these are at least some of the shady and corrupt characters we know about who have had contact with both Obama and Rezko. The candidate refuses to address the extent of his relationship with any of them.

When do we get beyond “guilt by association” of these people with Obama and start to wonder about just who this man is who is marching toward the nomination and a better than even shot at the White House?


In an unbelievable example of serendipity, Bob Owens posted on the exact same subject at almost exactly the same time. The title of his post? “Guilt by Association.”

Great minds and all that…

By: Rick Moran at 1:24 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (21)


Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I’m saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Ness: Anything and everything in my power.
Malone: And then what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way because they’re not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead.
Ness: How do you do it then?
Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here’s how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way…

(From “The Untouchables”)

Many of us familiar with Chicago politics have been wondering for months at the apparent disconnect of the media regarding Obama’s relationship to the Chicago political machine. Where did they think this guy came from?

The lack of curiosity by the press about Obama’s connections to one of the most corrupt city governments in the United States should be one of the big media stories of this campaign. While it is true that Obama’s connections to the Machine are not as extensive as many other politicians, I’ve got news for you Obama apologists; try running for any office in Chicago – local, state, or federal – and see how far you get without support from the regular Democrats.

Besides, examining Obama’s first state senate race should have been a tip off to the national press that this fellow can play the game of politics “The Chicago Way” as well as any corrupt Daleycrat:

The day after New Year’s 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city’s South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama’s four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot.

Fresh from his work as a civil rights lawyer and head of a voter registration project that expanded access to the ballot box, Obama launched his first campaign for the Illinois Senate saying he wanted to empower disenfranchised citizens.

But in that initial bid for political office, Obama quickly mastered the bare-knuckle arts of Chicago electoral politics. His overwhelming legal onslaught signaled his impatience to gain office, even if that meant elbowing aside an elder stateswoman like Palmer.

A close examination of Obama’s first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.

Don’t you think that information like this might be included in any standard media bio of the candidate, MSNBC? Or have you guys at Fox never heard of the internet and Google?

This is politics “The Chicago Way” as John Kass points out in this ground breaking column today:

The Chicago Way.

What is it? Is it easily abused? Is it dangerous in the wrong hands?

This is critical, as the nation’s eyes turn toward Chicago’s federal building, where Barack Obama’s personal real estate fairy, Tony Rezko, stands trial on federal corruption charges.

The phrase must be put in context, something the national media fails to do when they portray Obama as the boy king drawing the sword from the stone, ready to change America’s politics of influence and lobbyists, ignoring the fact that Chicago ain’t Camelot.

With opening statements expected Thursday, the court will be packed with journalists foreign to our idiom. In the past, a few reporters have applied “The Chicago Way” to our pizza, theater and opera, thereby embarrassing themselves beyond redemption.

“Chicago ain’t Camelot” may be the understatement of this political year. Chicago is…well, Chicago. For instance:

Chicago’s mob—we call it the Outfit—was slapped last summer by federal prosecutors in the Operation Family Secrets trial that convicted Outfit bosses, and cops and put political figures in with them. We’ve had our chief of detectives sent to prison for running the Outfit’s jewelry-heist ring. And we’ve had white guys with Outfit connections get $100 million in affirmative action contracts from their drinking buddy, Mayor Richard Daley, who must have seen them pink and white and male at some point.

That’s the Chicago Way.

Are you getting the picture New York Times? Do I have to spell it out for you Washington Post? Wake up and smell the coffee, CNN!

“This country was built on taxes,” said a Democratic machine hack, Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, as she and other Democrats prepared to slap Chicago with the highest sales tax of any major city in the country….

“There’s not that many political hacks in Cook County,” Sims insisted after the tax hike.

Not that many hacks? The only one reporters need to bother about is also involved at the same federal building: the mayor’s own Duke of Patronage, Robert Sorich.

Sorich has been found guilty by a jury, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals above the Rezko courtroom is still deciding whether to redeem the jury or redeem the mayor, who’d much rather have Sorich happy than Obama in the White House.

Sorich was convicted two years ago of running the mayor’s massive and illegal patronage operation, and he’s still not in prison. Thugs, morons, idiots, and convicts were put on the city payroll to work the precincts so that Daley could keep getting elected. Obama’s spokesman, David Axelrod, defended Daley patronage in a Tribune op-ed piece.

As an aside, for a while there it looked like Fitzy might be targeting hizzoner himself, measuring him for prison coveralls. But the Daleys have always been too smart to get caught doing anything really illegal and the Mayor’s luck held.

But seriously LA Times, this is the political culture Barack Obama matured in. Would it do any harm to perhaps, you know, pretend that you’re doing your job and send a reporter down here to look into a few things.

Maybe you folks at ABC News could start by looking into those letters Obama wrote to city and state officials on behalf of his now indicted patron, friend, and fund raiser Tony Rezko to get a $14 million contract to build senior housing – a development located outside of his senate district:

The deal included $855,000 in development fees for Rezko and his partner, Allison S. Davis, Obama’s former boss, according to records from the project, which was four blocks outside Obama’s state Senate district.

Obama’s letters, written nearly nine years ago, for the first time show the Democratic presidential hopeful did a political favor for Rezko—a longtime friend, campaign fund-raiser and client of the law firm where Obama worked—who was indicted last fall on federal charges that accuse him of demanding kickbacks from companies seeking state business under Gov. Blagojevich.

The letters appear to contradict a statement last December from Obama, who told the Chicago Tribune that, in all the years he’s known Rezko, “I’ve never done any favors for him.’‘

And lest there be any doubt CBS News, here’s Obama’s “Chicago Way” response:

On Tuesday, Bill Burton, press secretary for Obama’s presidential campaign, said the letters Obama wrote in support of the development weren’t intended as a favor to Rezko or Davis.

“This wasn’t done as a favor for anyone,” Burton said in a written statement. “It was done in the interests of the people in the community who have benefited from the project.
“I don’t know that anyone specifically asked him to write this letter nine years ago,” the statement said. “There was a consensus in the community about the positive impact the project would make and Obama supported it because it was going to help people in his district. . . .

Um, no Boston Herald, the project was not benefiting people in Obama’s district. It was benefiting his buddy Rezko to the tune of $855,000. But hey! It sure sounds good when you can say that you don’t know “that anyone specifically asked” Obama to write the letters. That’s the key to any “Chicago Way” denial; be as vague as possible so just in case evidence surfaces later that you’re lying through your teeth, you have an out.

The same goes for the shady deal on the house, Philadelphia Inquirer:

Naturally, there are some squares who don’t think taxpayers should pave the Chicago Way to make it easy for Rezko to help purchase the senator’s dream house in a kinky deal exposed by the Tribune and still not fully explained.

“It’s really the Old Chicago Way,” said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association. “In the old days they would pretty much admit it up front, and now they deny it. It’s essentially about power, access to government jobs, government contracts and taking care of your own.”

“Taking care of your own” was something Obama was very good at. How good we probably won’t know for a while. That’s because it’s not only what Obama did for Rezko and vice versa that should be occupying the press as they write about the potential next President of the United States. It’s what he did for Rezko’s cronies and other contributors that should also be examined. And the candidate himself isn’t volunteering any information. That, too is “The Chicago Way.” Be smart and keep your mouth shut.

Perhaps the Rezko trial, now underway at the Federal building downtown, will change this dynamic. But I guess I shouldn’t be too optimistic. Kass explains:

One secret DaVinci Code-type sign for the Chicago Way is in the back room of the Chicago City Council chambers at City Hall, where a portrait of George Washington looks down at the crookedness below, and extends his own hand, palm up, itchy, needing that special grease.

When even sainted George Washington is on the take, you know that something is really rotten in this town.


From today’s Sun Times: “Did Rezko find jobs for Obama staffers?”

Among those on the list were two people who appear to have Obama links and a third who’s now an Obama presidential campaign staffer.

But did the names come from Obama? His campaign staff’s short answer: Don’t know—but it’s possible.

“We do not know how decisions were made to fill specific state positions, and we have no records of any individual recommendations we were asked to make or made,” says Obama spokesman Bill Burton “But we do know that Tony Rezko, among others, was helping to gather names for the positions coming open with a new administration, and, if it is established any names came through our office, we would have no reason to doubt it.”


With so many links on this piece – especially Insty and Hot Air – I am removing comment moderation because I am too lazy and besides I don’t want to read what you have to say anyway.

Uh – just kiddin’ about that last one, people. Let’s just say I don’t want to have to be interrpupted every few minutes and batch the comments. This is a serious site here and we do serious work.

Now excuse me while I get back to HotMovies…


Reliapundit, who has been on the Rezko-Obama story for about 2 years longer than I have, has a long, detailed post on Obama’s rise in Chicago and his connections to the machine.

By: Rick Moran at 1:16 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (40)

baldilocks linked with Blast From the Past...
Sister Toldjah linked with Sometimes in slip ups, the truth comes out...

The Prophet of Change:

Toward the end of the press conference, the question of Goolsbee’s meeting was raised again. Obama answered curtly and then walked out after a staffer called last question. The press erupted with shouts, but Obama continued to walk out.

He paused only to say, “Come on guys; I answered like eight questions. We’re running late.”

On the flight from San Antonio to Dallas, Obama, unsurprisingly, did not wander back to make small talk with the traveling press corps.

Yesterday, I idly wondered when Obama would start addressing the numerous questions about his relationship with indicted Chicago fixer Tony Rezko. The candidate’s press availability was starting to become an issue and I surmised that with the Rezko trial beginning yesterday, sooner or later Obama would have to bite the bullet and face some tough questions.

For fifteen very uncomfortable minutes yesterday, we got a preview of what’s in store for Obama from here on out in the campaign:

Led by the Chicago press corps that has covered Obama for years, the candidate today faced a barrage of questions in what turned out to be a contentious news conference.

Questions centered on why his campaign had denied that a meeting occurred between his chief economic advisor and Canadian officials as well as questions on his relationship with Tony Rezko, a Chicago land developer and fast food magnate, now on trial for corruption charges.

Obama claimed that when he had first denied the meeting between Austan Goolsbee and any members of the Canadian administration he provided “the information that [he] had at the time.”

He added, “Nobody reached out to the Canadians to try to reassure them. They reached out, unbeknownst to the rest of us; They reached out to Mr. Goolsbee, who provided them with a tangible conversation and repeated what we’ve said on the campaign trail.”

When did the meeting take place? Why did the Canadian officials reach out? Did Goolsbee not come forward right away and admit the meeting to Campaign Manager David Plouffe and Obama when both denied it last week? These are questions that went unanswered as the press conference was cut short.

Much of the back and forth, though, between reporters and Obama was about his relationship with Tony Rezko, with reporters demanding to know why new details were emerging from the case though Obama and his staff had claimed they had been forthright with all the details.

Indeed, what made this press conference different for Obama was the presence of a cadre of Chicago journalists who have been on the Rezko-Obama story from the beginning.

Carol Marin – TV news editor but a first class print journalist as well – along with Chris Fusco and Tim Novak of the Sun Times have been ferreting out the details of this very complex relationship between the candidate and the crook for more than 2 years. And Marin especially made life hell for Obama yesterday:

Obama and Carol Marin, political editor at NBC5 in Chicago and columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, tangled over how up front Obama had been about Rezko. Obama cut off her line of questioning, saying that Marin’s questions were personally motivated.

“Carol, can I just say I have to really dispute this,” Obama said. “It is true that you wanted an individual sit down, but I don’t think that’s fair to speak for the entire Chicago press corps because on this—Let me finish,” he interjected as she tried to interrupt.

“Before you were reporting on these issues I had an avail,” Obama said, pointing to members of the Chicago press corps who were present, “where I literally stood there and took every question people could think of.”

Lynn Sweet from the Chicago Sun-Times then jumped in and told Obama that he may have answered questions for the Chicago press, but many other reporters hadn’t had a chance to hear him on the issue.

“I just want to make that point an issue,” Obama said. “You may still have questions, which I’m happy to answer, but I don’t think it’s fair to suggest somehow that we’ve been trying to hide the ball on this. There have been more attacks. There have been several hundred stories written on this issue. The fact of the matter remains unchallenged.”

Here’s the problem for Obama and the press; that “avail” (shorthand for an unscheduled press conference or “candidate availability”) was not with reporters on the Rezko-Obama beat but with embedded campaign reporters. Also, that avail only scratched the surface of the real estate transaction involving Obama and Rezko and did not address issues that have come up since then such as Obama’s assistance to Rezko that got his client a contract to build senior housing – a favor that gave Rezko a windfall of $855,000 in fees.

Nor has the candidate addressed numerous other issues relating to the purchase of his house, the possible intervention of the senator with the State Department to secure a visa for Rezko business partner and convicted fraudster Nadhmi Auchi, or exactly what kind of legal work Obama performed for Rezko’s slumlord management company while he was with a law firm doing business with Rezko.

The modus operandi of the campaign in the past has been to request written questions that would be submitted by reporters to the campaign and answered in due course. Or just as often, the questions are ignored or dismissed as having been answered already as the candidate did yesterday.

So it’s not surprising that when Obama was made available to the press with the Rezko wrecking crew of Chicago reporters present, fireworks would ensue. If you asked that contingent of Chicago reporters where this story was headed, they would probably tell you that they had yet to hit bottom and that other issues such as Obama’s relationships with Rezko cronies have yet to be fleshed out and explored. Some of those cronies also donated monies to his campaigns for state senate and the US senate and it remains to be seen if there were any favors exchanged as a result of those contributions.

But is this what we can expect from the candidate in the future? Tantrums and sulks just because the press is trying to do its job? Ed Morrissey compares John McCain’s presser the day after the New York Times smear against him:

Compare this to the press conference John McCain held after the New York Times smeared him by accusing him of having a sexual affair with a lobbyist. Not only did McCain — whose temper has its own zip code, according to some Capitol Hill staffers — give a lengthy and reserved statement, but then stood at the podium until the reporters ran out of questions. In fact, at the end, McCain had to ask twice whether anyone had anything else to ask him before leaving the podium.

By my count, McCain answered 36 questions in this press conference. How many did Obama take before walking off in a huff?

I would say to Barack Obama that after next Tuesday’s Mississippi primary, there is a lull in the campaign until the Pennsylvania showdown on April 22 (assuming Hillary Clinton wins either Ohio or Texas). It would be well to try and get ahead of the Rezko issue by making yourself more available to those who are covering the story in Chicago and answering questions that have been avoided or ignored. Otherwise, your campaign will be in reaction mode until the November election.

And as the drip, drip, drip of revelations continue, your prospects for victory diminish substantially.


Karl at PW also notes the Chicago cadre of reporters – most notably from the Sun Times – who tried to hold Obama’s feet to the fire yesterday but were dismissed in Marin’s case as trying to promote some kind of personal agenda.

Karl notes Marin’s bio where she quit NBC 5 because they hired Jerry Springer to give “commentary” on the news. Marin’s resignation (and co-anchor Ron Magers threatened resignation) doomed Springer’s run at WMAQ to 4 days.

By: Rick Moran at 7:42 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (16)

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A better question might be: “When will Obama talk to the press about anything.”

Generally speaking, Obama has been the least accessible candidate for president in a while. Howard Kurtz commented on this phenomena in January:

All traveling campaigns have a bubble-like quality, but Obama seems unusually insulated. One moment of absurdity came Tuesday, when reporters on the press bus were asked to dial into a conference call in which Obama announced a congressman’s endorsement—even though the candidate was nearby and just as easily could have delivered the news in person to the bus captives. Obama answered a few questions, but reporters are generally placed on mute after they speak so there can be no follow-up. (Clinton held a news conference the same morning.)

That afternoon, as the candidate was working his way through a raucous crowd at Linder University in Greenwood, New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny shouted a question about whether Obama was allowing Bill Clinton to get inside his head.

“Don’t try a cheap stunt like that. You’re better than that,” Obama told him with a smile. He finally suggested that “the other side must be rattled if they’re continually saying false things about us,” before walking away. What creates such awkwardness are long days when reporters have only seconds to bellow a question.

When Obama decided to do a round of interviews on the next day’s morning shows, not only did the campaign fail to notify the traveling correspondents the evening before, but a press aide insisted when asked about the rumor that he knew of no such plans.

And the isolation is even more pronounced when it comes to reporters who know the Rezko story. Sun Times blogger Lynn Sweet:

On Sunday, the chief strategist for the Obama campaign disagreed with my conclusion where I wrote that Obama has not talked to reporters who know the Tony Rezko story the best.

For more than a year, that has been a pretty small group of investigative journalists—from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. I checked with the Sun-Times reporters before I wrote my column and rechecked again. They all said they have never had a chance to discuss Rezko with Obama.

There have been two times where Obama took questions on Rezko reporters—in Waukegan, Ill. in November, 2005 (transcript is reposted below) or LINK where none of the investigative reporters were present because Obama commented after a political event. There was also a hastily arranged April, 23, 2007, session where Obama talked to some Chicago reporters. The YouTube clip is from NBC5 and the Chicago Sun-Times.

On Sunday’s “This Week” show, Obama head honcho David Axelrod lied through his teeth when responding to a question about Lynn Sweet’s contention regarding access to local reporters with extensive knowledge of the Rezko case:

AXELROD: I think she is wrong. We’ve talked to reporters from—and he’s talked to reporters from both papers several times in
several sessions about this, and each time the conclusion is the same:
There’s no evidence of any wrongdoing related to Mr. Rezko.

What do the reporters in question have to say about that?

Sun-Times Reporter Tim Novak
“David Axelrod has never talked to me, Fusco or Mckinney about Obama. Neither has Obama.
All we’ve gotten are responses to written questions, and who knows who actually answered those. And occassionally we talk to (Bill) Burton.
But the point is that Obama himself has never sat down and discussed these questions about Rezko.”

Sun-Times Reporter Chris Fusco
“Tim is absolutely right about that one.”

Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney
“Well, I know Chris and I have never had a sit-down interview with Obama. Axelrod might be referring to the December 2006 Q and A, but as you know those were written questions and written responses. I believe Tim’s experience was identical when he wrote about Rezko’s slum properties. Axelrod would have been more accurate, perhaps, had he said today that Obama has “communicated” with reporters (through spokesmen and a Q and A). But he hasn’t spoken to us directly about this. You are right. Axelrod is wrong.”

Sun-Times Political Columnist Carol Marin recalls when Tim Novak broke his first major piece on Rezko’s slumlord holdings in Obama’s state senate district, Obama’s campaign delayed providing substantive answers for weeks.

This is the favorite ploy of the Obama campaign; if it’s about Rezko or some other controversy, please submit your questions in writing. That way, of course, they don’t have to take follow up questions or see the candidate stumble and fumble around trying to spin his way out of trouble.

And in one of the most incredible examples of this technique, the sellers of the house that Obama bought with the help of Rezko would only answer written questions and respond through the campaign. Whoever heard of such nonsense? Reporters were forced to submit questions – many of which went totally unanswered – through the campaign and received a response from the sellers also via campaign headquarters.

The Rezko trial that starts today is not expected to drop any bombshells on Obama. But there are many other aspects of Obama’s relationship with Rezko – legal work done for his slumlord management company, favors done for Rezko while both a US and state senator, and Obama’s connection to some of Rezko’s shadier associates – all of these questions must eventually be addressed by the candidate himself with the press. It won’t happen on the morning puff shows nor will it be satisfactory if some worshipful reporter were to interview Obama without any knowledge of the ins and outs of Chicago politics and the Rezko-Obama relationship.

Obama must sit down with reporters who will ask the right questions. Otherwise, future revelations – and I guarantee there’s more to come on this story – will only add to the candidate’s woes.

By: Rick Moran at 5:52 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

CATEGORY: Obama-Rezko

According to Noam Scheiber of The New Republic, the dust up over Obama’s two faced NAFTA policy doesn’t seem to be going away and in fact, may be working against the Illinois senator:

Okay, scratch what I said about Goolsbee and Canada. I still don’t think it’s substantively a big deal, but between hearing CNN’s reports from Ohio this morning, and listening in on a Clinton conference call just now (and hearing reporters’ questions on the subject), I think they’re getting some significant traction with this story today.

Two things make it problematic for the Obama campaign: 1.) The sudden appearance of this lurid-sounding memo written by a Canadian consular official. I don’t think it’s particularly revealing—as I said this morning, it reflects what the Canadians thought they heard from Goolsbee; there are, significantly, no direct quotes. But the term “memo” just sounds bad—as though there were some cover-up that’s now falling apart. 2.) Certain Obama officials denied last week that there was any contact between the Obama campaign and the Canadian government about NAFTA. That’s clearly no longer “operative,” as Howard Wolfson pointed out on the call. While the memo story is a little ambiguous on its own—the Canadian official claims Goolsbee said one thing; he claims he said another—the Obama campaign’s previous denials will make the press view their current claims more skeptically.

If this story is getting the kind of coverage in Ohio CNN is suggesting it is, it’s hard to see how Obama makes up ground there today.

If you read the parts of the memo from Joseph DeMora who works at the Chicago consulate, it is pretty ambiguous and not exactly a smoking gun showing that the Obama advisor – Austan Goolsbee – gave the wink, wink, nudge, nudge to the Canadian government on OBama’s real position on NAFTA:

Goolsbee disputed a section that read: “Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign. He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”

“This thing about `it’s more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans,’ that’s this guy’s language,” Goolsbee said of DeMora. “He’s not quoting me.

“I certainly did not use that phrase in any way,” Goolsbee said.

The meeting was first reported last week by Canadian television network CTV, which cited unnamed sources as saying that Goolsbee assured the Canadians that Obama’s tough talk on the North American Free Trade Agreement is just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously. The Obama campaign and the Canadian embassy denied there was any inconsistency between what the candidate was saying publicly and what advisers were saying privately.

Is that true? Even allowing for misinterpretation it is hard to believe that the consulate official could have gotten it that wrong. It may have been more subtle but clearly, Goolsbee left the impression that Obama was saying one thing but would do another if he was elected.

The Canadian government is denying it – for obvious reasons. They’ve already inadvertently injected themselves into the campaign and just wish it would all go away.

But CTV, who broke the story originally, went back and reconfirmed the story with their government sources. The fact that by all reports the memo in question received very wide distribution inside the Canadian government also points up the seriousness with which the Goolsbee conversation was taken. This despite the insistence by the Obama campaign that Goolsbee was pretty much of an independent operator and wasn’t speaking on behalf of the campaign:

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Goolsbee’s visit was not as an emissary from the campaign, but as a professor from the University of Chicago. He was not authorized to share any messages from the campaign, Burton said.

Burton, who was on the call while Goolsbee described his visit to the AP, said, “It all boils down to a clumsy, inaccurate portrayal of the conversation.”

Asked if he agreed with Burton, Goolsbee said he did.

Goolsbee, by the way, is Obama’s senior economic policy advisor. Just what was the Canadian government to believe when someone with that pedigree shows up at their Chicago consulate and starts to talk about NAFTA and the campaign?

Regardless of how the events transpired between Goolsbee and the Canadians, the view from the ground in Ohio from Scheiber is significant. Over the weekend, steel workers were picketing Obama’s headquarters in Toledo demanding clarification on his NAFTA policy. And newspapers, pundits, and local talk shows are filled with talk about the incident.

What this has done is killed the momentum Obama was enjoying in Ohio that had allowed him to halve Clinton’s lead in the state. In fact, it appears in both Texas and Ohio, Hillary Clinton has arrested her slide and especially in Texas, has battled back even with Obama:

The Democratic Party presidential primaries in Texas and Ohio remain too close to call between Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, with momentum sloshing back and forth, a new Zogby International poll for Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle two-day telephone tracking poll shows. As voters in these two big states prepare to wrap up their voting tomorrow, neither candidate has been able to break away from the other.

The two delegate-rich states with elections on Tuesday are among the last of the big states left in the primary election season, and both candidates stand to split the delegates under the party’s proportional delegate apportionment scheme.

This plays into a developing theme for the campaign – that the race is entering a new phase with Hillary Clinton on the rebound.

There are several factors that point to this scenario. First and most importantly, the national press was stung to the quick by the Saturday Night Live skit from two weeks ago that showed the press fawning all over Obama. The voters agree that the press has been much tougher on Hillary than on Obama.

Recently we have seen two major developments in the press that point to a possible bursting of Obama’s glowing press coverage balloon; 1) There has been increased attention paid to Obama’s national security inexperience; and 2) The national media has finally woken up to Obama’s “Rezko problem.”

Hillary’s “3 AM” commercial has generated an enormous amount of interest and talk on the newsnets as well as Sunday’s news shows. Hillary’s chief strategy guru Mark Penn issued a memo that shows the campaign is ready to take advantage of this issue:

Following up on their conference call earlier today, the Clinton campaign released a memo entitled: “Why Hillary Clinton is Ready to be Commander-in-Chief.”

In the memo, Mark Penn, the chief strategist for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (N.Y.) presidential campaign, writes: “If Barack Obama says it’s fear mongering to talk about how Senator Clinton will protect America, he is going to have a rough time up against John McCain. This is not a debate he can duck with two wars going on.”

Penn asserted today that an ad that raised the specter of a national security crisis and questioned Sen. Barack Obama’s (Ill.) readiness to handle such an event has fundamentally altered the shape of the race heading into tomorrow’s votes in Ohio and Texas.

Penn said the ad, which began airing Friday, effectively framed the question of “who’s ready and prepared to be commander-in-chief.” Penn added: “Just by merely asking the question and nothing more, millions of people understood what is the answer to that question.” He called it a “tipping point” in the race that has signaled a “change in momentum.”

Surely part of this is pure spin. But Penn is a savvy guy and I think the ad has finally given the Clinton’s a way to attack Obama effectively.

But the attack will mean little unless Obama is taken off his pedestal and shown to be an ordinary politician. And with the trial in Chicago of Obama’s long time friend and fund raiser Tony Rezko starting today, the national media has finally discovered this story and have begun covering it in earnest.

Obama will almost certainly not be called as a witness. But there’s a good chance his name will surface in connection with an illegal contribution to his campaign. Rezko asked one of this cronies to contribute money to Obama’s senate campaign and then reimbursed him for the contribution. Obama has given the money to charity but prosecutors may bring up Obama’s name in connection with that contribution as evidence of a pattern of behavior on the part of Rezko.

And the infamous real estate transaction involving Obama’s house and Rezko’s purchase of the vacant lot next door is also receiving increased scrutiny. At the time of the transaction, the Rezko’s were broke and creditors were swarming around his companies and assets. And yet, they were able to come up with $125,000 in cash to put as a downpayment on the $600,000 lot – a purchase that allowed his friend Obama to buy his house at a $300,000 discount. Rezko probably got the money via a loan from a shady Iraqi named Nadhmi Auchi who the Pentagon refers to as a “bagman” for Saddam Hussein:

But the case against Rezko prepared by the always determined U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald poses possible new pitfalls for the Democratic front-runner by introducing into the proceedings Auchi, who has been convicted on corruption charges in France and given a suspended sentence. While his friends describe Auchi and his family as victims of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, Pentagon sources call him a “bagman” who laundered money in London for the Iraqi dictator.

Auchi may also be involved in the Oil for Food scandal where billions of Saddam’s dollars were funneled to western companies.

There are many other questions about the Obama-Rezko relationship that are being asked. More investigations targeting Rezko and his companies are underway which can only mean more trouble for Obama down the road.

NAFTAGate, Rezko, and questions about Obama’s national security credentials have all combined to perhaps – just perhaps – give Democratic voters a slight pause before they anoint The Chosen One as nominee.

And if Hillary has anything to say about it, that day will never come.

By: Rick Moran at 4:14 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)


My latest column at Pajamas Media is up and it’s a doozy.

Basically, it’s a primer for those who don’t know as much as they’d like about the relationship between Barack Obama and Tony Rezko, the Chicago “Fixer” who has been indicted on 24 counts of fraud.

It is by no means a complete history. This is a very complex relationship with many threads interwoven in the story. I had to leave out some sidebars that may or may not prove significant – such as Obama’s relationship with the former Iraqi Minister of Electricity who is being investigated for stealing perhaps some of the $2 billion in US taxpayer reconstruction funds that have gone missing. Did Obama intervene to get a contract for Rezko with the Iraqi government to train power plant workers in Illinois?

It is issues like this that continue to feed the notion that there is much more to this story than a simple transaction involving Rezko’s wife and Obama’s house. Just as Whitewater was not just about a failed real estate deal, there are aspects to this relationship that investigators and journalists are looking at as I write this that may prove to be extremely troubling.

Here’s a small sample from a very long and detailed piece:


Antoin “Tony” Rezko is a Syrian born businessman who was known in Chicago political circles as “a fixer.” Need to get a waiver of some kind of regulation to close a real estate deal? Call Tony. Want your kid to intern in the office of a United States senator? Call Tony. Are the wheels of government turning too slowly and need to have a legislator or two goose the bureaucracy? Call Tony.

Rezko had a lot of friends and associates because he collected politicians like a kid collects baseball cards. He was a fundraiser with the ability to shake the money tree for his political friends.

Entrepreneur, real estate tycoon, developer, and pal of the powerful, by all accounts Tony Rezko had his fingers in many pies.

He was also, according to Sun Times political reporter Carol Marin, a “staggeringly talented shakedown artist”:

By: Rick Moran at 12:20 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)