Saturday, December 16, 2006

Obama watch: More Tony Rezko

Originally posted on Marathon Pundit.

Washington Post writer Peter Slevin does a sort-of follow-up story on Howard Kurtz' piece that appeared in the Post earlier this week.

Slevin does a pretty good job summing up the Rezko (and Stuart Levine, a Republican) pay-to-play schemes that eventually got both men indicted for fraud.

Levine later pleaded guilty, and he is now cooperating with federal authorities, causing many sleepless nights for Illinois political insiders.

What both Kurtz and Slevin miss in their stories is that shortly after Democrat Rod Blagojevich was sworn in as governor in 2003--but probably before--it was common knowledge in Springfield that Rezko was the "go-to" guy for access to "Blago." Especially if you donated money to Blagojevich's political fund.

I like this paragraph from Andy Shaw of ABC 7 Chicago, from October, 2006:

Rezko is one of few private Illinois citizens who can walk past the governor's security detail and whisper in Blagojevich's ear. Rezko had access to Blagojevich and donated at least $49,000 to his campaign fund through personal and corporate names since 2004. Having money and having access to politicians goes hand-in-hand in Illinois, according to Paul Green, Roosevelt University political science professor.

What does this have to do with Obama? Well, until late 2004 Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator. Could someone so brilliant as Obama been oblivious to Rezko's prominence in the eyes of the governor? I'm not claiming that Obama knew, or would be expected to know of Rezko's alleged illegal activities, but an odor has surrounded Rezko since Governor Blagojevich was sworn in almost four years ago.

The initial Obama-Rezko (actually Rita Rezko, Tony's wife) real estate deal took place in the summer of 2005.

As for the Tony Rezko intrigues that got him indicted, US Attorney Patrick "Fitzmas" Fitzgerald called it "a pay to play scheme on steroids."

Steroids, both real and metaphorical, will get you noticed. But did Obama miss something?

From Slevin's Washington Post article:

Obama said that he was unaware of Rezko's brewing troubles in 2005 and that Rezko sought no favors. He described himself, after eight years in the Illinois Senate and two on Capitol Hill, as careful to live within strict ethical boundaries -- refusing to allow lobbyists to pay for meals, for example, and reimbursing people for golf outings.

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