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My Pal Tony

The front page story in The New York Times this week probing the relationship between Barack Obama and Tony Rezko revealed a few new disturbing facts, though the article was short on explanation and analysis - and there is yet more to the story of Illinois' favorite son and his dark patron.

Let's take a look.

* * *

"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 Times reports.

"Mr. Obama turned to Rezko for help at several important junctures. Records show that when Mr. Obama needed cash in the waning days of his losing 2000 Congressional campaign, Mr. Rezko rounded up thousands of dollars from business contacts. In 2003, Mr. Rezko helped Mr. Obama expand his fund-raising for the Senate primary by being host of a dinner in his Mediterranean-style home for 150 people, including some whose names have come up in the influence scandal.

"And when Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, bought a [$1.65 million] house in 2005, Mr. Rezko helped smooth the transaction. Even though his finances were deteriorating, Mr. Rezko arranged for his wife to buy an adjacent lot, and she later sold the Obamas a 10-foot-wide strip of land that expanded their yard.

"The land sale occurred after it had been reported that Mr. Rezko was under federal investigation. That awkward fact prompoted Mr. Obama, who has cast himself as largely free from the normal influences of politics, to express regret over what he called his own bad judgment."

Why did Obama need Rezko's help?

'People familiar with the transaction said that the sellers did not want to close until that June 15, and that the sale would go through only if someone bought the adjacent lot from them on the same date," the Times reports.

Obama needed a favor from Rezko. He needed someone to buy that adjacent lot on the same day so he and Michelle could get that house. Someone he knew, who would let the Obamas expand their property and keep the rest of the lot, which the Obamas tended, vacant. Far from Rezko slyly buying a home next to a rising star, it was Obama who called Rezko and brought him into the deal.

"Rita Rezko paid $625,000 to outbid others for the lot and later sold the Obama's one-sixth of that land land, for $104,500," the Times reports.

"After the Chicago Tribune reported the transactions last November, Mr. Obama said he had acted ethically, though it had been a mistake to let Mr. Rezko do anything that could be seen as a favor.

"The disclosure came four days before Michelle Obama was to appear as a special guest at a charity fashion show organized by Mrs. Rezko. Mrs. Obama attended, though others there said it seemed a bit awkward."

* * *

"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.'"

Not so.

"In addition to enlisting his huge circle of donors, Mr. Rezko and Mr. Obama talked frequently about campaign developments during the Senate race, Mr. Rezko's associates said."

* * *

"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."

* * *

"While Mr. Obama was running for the Senate, Mr. Rezko was also raising money for a huge development in the South Loop of Chicago, often playing host to dinners in a private room at the Four Seasons Hotel here.

"Former Rezko associates said that Governor Blagojevich attended one of the dinners, and that at Mr. Rezko's request, Mr. Obama dropped in at one for Middle Eastern bankers in early 2004, just as he was starting to pull ahead in the Senate primary. The visits, Mr. Rezko's partners said, helped impress foreign guests.

"'I remember that he had been on the campaign trail, and he was completely wiped out and exhausted,' said Anthony Licata, a lawyer who represented Mr. Rezko on real estate deals. 'My recollection is that he drank ice tea, and he talked about how he was really making progress, and we were all excited to see him.'

* * *

Obama refused to talk to the Times for the story. His campaign office issued a content-free written statement. Obama has previously said he never did Rezko a favor. And, of course, he often says that his a different kind of campaign - a movement - for those who think politics is an insider's game. But at every step of the way, Obama has played that game with utmost expediency. Far from carving out a niche as an independent reformer with clean hands, he has embraced the worst elements of the Machine - Rezko, Daley, Jones, Stroger, Tillman - to advance his own ambition. And I can tell you, Obama fans, that we haven't heard it all yet. Particularly where Rezko is concerned.


For more of the Beachwood's coverage of Obama, see Obamathon.


Posted on June 15, 2007

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
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BOOKS - All About Poop.


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