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Tony's Tour

See below for additional material posted on February 20.

"Before he bought his South Side mansion in 2005, Sen. Barack Obama took his friend and fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko on a tour of the premises to make sure it was a good deal, Obama's campaign revealed Monday," the Tribune reports.

"Weeks after saying he'd answered all questions about his controversial dealings with the now-indicted Rezko, Obama released new details about their purchase of adjacent lots from the same seller on the same day. But the disclosures by Obama's presidential campaign left unanswered questions and raised new ones."

No kidding.

In national interviews Obama has acted like he hardly knew the man who was his first campaign contributor and whom he has called his political godfather and answered questions with a striking disingenuousness. Locally, the brainiac who has memorialized details of his entire life going back to childhood in a best-selling book feigned ignorance when it came to Rezko's role in the purchase of his home, though he allowed in one interview (in what appear to be written answers) that he sought out Rezko.

"Q: Did you approach Rezko or his wife about the property, or did they approach you?

"A: To the best of my recollection, I told him about the property, and he developed an interest, knowing both the location and, as I recall, the developer who had previously purchased it."

Apparently he didn't remember then actually touring the property with Tony.

(He was also asked why he appeared to have kept his subsequent purchase of a strip of the side yard from Rezko a secret. See comment #12 here, hat tip to RezkoWatch.

("Q: Why did you put the property in a trust?

("A: I was advised that a trust holding would afford me some privacy, which was important to me as I would be commuting from Washington to Chicago and my family would spend some part of most weeks without me."

(Nobody would figure out where a United States Senator running for president lived?)

Obama has also denied that knowing that Rezko was under federal investigation at the time, despite the fact that everybody else in the Illinois political universe knew.

And then he ran from reporters trying to find out more.

Now Obama's stonewalling continues. The latest revelation - he toured the property with Rezko - came first from Bloomberg News, which the Obama campaign chose to give an ex-mail exchange it had with the home's sellers.

"The campaign declined to share the sellers' e-mails with the Tribune or elaborate on the Bloomberg story."

In other words, the campaign picked its pigeon very carefully.

Bloomberg reports that "The couple who sold Barack Obama his Chicago home said the Illinois senator's $1.65 million bid ``was the best offer'' and they didn't cut their asking price because a campaign donor bought their adjacent land, according to e-mails between Obama's presidential campaign and the seller."

But the campaign's maneuver only heightens suspicions.

"The sellers hadn't previously made their side of the story public out of concern for their privacy, according to Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama's campaign," Bloomberg reports."They approached Obama's Senate office 15 months ago and agreed to break their silence now through the campaign out of concern that the story was being distorted in the media, Burton said."

The sellers approached the campaign 15 months ago and the campaign is only bringing them out now. Why didn't Obama clean up his mess from the outset?

Two reasons come to mind, and they are not mutually exclusive. First, there's more to the story than we've been told. In fact, this latest story only confirms that. Second, it's a way to get out ahead of Rezko's trial next month on various fraud and corruption charges.

But the campaign's disclosure is a bit tortured.

"Burton said Obama, 46, toured the property with Rezko for 15 to 30 minutes at some point before the purchase. Burton said Obama wanted Rezko's opinion of the property because Rezko was a real-estate developer in the area. Burton said he didn't know when the pre-sale tour occurred," Bloomberg explains.

"Burton said a campaign adviser discussed the sale with Wondisford by phone and followed up with an e-mail to Wondisford repeating his points. Wondisford responded: `I confirm that the three points below are accurate,' according to the e-mail, provided to Bloomberg News and authenticated through records shown by the adviser.

"The e-mail says that the sellers 'did not offer or give the Obamas a "discount" on the house price on the basis of or in relation to the price offered and accepted on the lot.' It also says that 'in the course of the negotiation over the sales price,' Obama and his wife, Michelle, 'made several offers until the one accepted at $1.65 million, and that this was the best offer you received on the house.'''

So the campaign massaged three statements out of the sellers, who still refuse to face reporters' questions (as does Obama - at least from Chicago investigative reporters).

For starters:

* Why was the side yard split from the house and sold separately (though both remained inside the same fence)?
* Why did the sellers insist that the sale of both be closed on the same day?
* What were your dealings with the Rezkos?
* Were the Rezkos working in unison with the Obamas? (Should Obama have been surprised to learn Tony Rezko was his new "neighbor"?)

Additionally, the Obama-sympathetic Larry Handlin at Archpundit notes this:"If you look at the records in the Recorder of Deed's web site, you will see [the sellers] paid $1.65 million when they bought the house with the lot being around $400,000."

Why did the sellers have to take a loss on the sale of the home when the market was still hot while the side yard - apparently sold to them separately as well - appreciated in value?

Bloomberg also reports that "In January 2006, Rita Rezko sold the Obamas one-sixth of the lot, for $104,500, to expand their yard. She later sold the rest of the land to Michael Sreenan, who said by e-mail yesterday that he bought it in late December 2006 for $575,000."

Bloomberg fails to note, however, that Sreenan is the lawyer who represented Rezko when Rezko sold originally sold the to Obama. Was Sreenan's purchase just for show to get Rezko out of the public picture?

This, folks, is a lesson in when a carefully staged revelation just adds smoke to the smokescreen.

See more in Obamathon for the best Obama coverage in the universe, including the hit music video "I Had A Crush On Obama."

*

"You get an entirely different and more sensational picture from [the Tribune article, perhaps because the Trib wasn't given the e-mails that Bloomberg obtained," Rich Miller says on his Capitol Fax Blog. "Newspapers are jealous that way."

I guess the AP is jealous that way too.

*

The real question is why the Obama campaign won't just release the e-mails to everyone - and make the sellers available to reporters. The real answer is that the Obama campaign has had a strategy in place from the beginning to keep the real story on the candidate's relationship with Rezko from the public.

*

"Obama has never agreed to be interviewed by any reporter familiar with the details of the Rezko-Obama links."
- Lynn Sweet

*

From This Week, January 27, via Sweet:

STEPHANOPOULOS: One more time, Senator, you need to divulge all there is to know about that (Rezko) relationship. Take that opportunity here.

OBAMA: Well, George, this is a story that has been out there for a year, and has been thoroughly gnawed on by the press, both in Chicago and nationally.

Tony Rezko was a friend of mine, a supporter, who I've known for 20 years. He was a contributor not just myself but Democrats, as well as some Republicans, throughout Illinois. Everybody perceived him as a businessman and developer.

He got into trouble that was completely unrelated to me. And nobody has suggested that I have been involved in any of those problems. I did make a mistake by purchasing a small strip of property from him, at a time where, at that point, he was under the cloud of a potential investigation.

And I've acknowledged that that was a mistake. But again, nobody has suggested any wrongdoing. And you know, I think, at this point, it's important for people to recognize that I have actually provided all the information that's out there about it.



Permalink

Posted on February 19, 2008


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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Baxter's IV Bag Shortages.


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