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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Obama friend, client, contributor, and home-purchase benefactor Tony Rezko convicted on 16 of 24 corruption counts

Like this was a big surprise to anyone who's been paying attention:

Convicted fraud Tony Rezko (ChiTrib photo)A federal jury today convicted developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko of corruption charges for trading on his clout as a top adviser and fundraiser to Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Rezko's guilty verdict on 16 of 24 corruption counts could have broad repercussions for Blagojevich, who made Rezko a central player in his cabinet. It could also prove a political liability for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who once counted Rezko as a friend and fundraiser, as the likely Democratic presidential nominee heads into the general election campaign against Republican John McCain.

Here's how the WaPo's David Ignatius charitably summarized the Rezko-Obama relationship in April (ellipsis by WaPo):

Obama met Rezko in the early 1990s as he was finishing up at Harvard Law School. Rezko was well connected in Chicago's African American community, in part because he had worked with Jabir Herbert Muhammad, the son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad, when he was managing the career of boxer Muhammad Ali, according to a May 2005 profile in the Chicago Tribune.

Rezko moved into real estate and political fundraising, often a combustible combination in Chicago. Rezko offered Obama a job with his real estate company soon after they met, but Obama declined. When Obama decided to run for the state Senate in 1995, Rezko was his "first substantial contributor," according to the Tribune. That money relationship continued, with Rezko raising as much as $250,000 over the course of Obama's five Illinois races, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.

The friendship may have reflected the fact that both men were outsiders, trying to establish themselves in the rough-and-tumble world of Chicago. Obama told the Sun-Times last month: "My assessment of Tony Rezko was that he was an immigrant who had sort of pulled himself up by his bootstraps.... I think he saw me as somebody who had talent, but he was probably also intrigued by my international background."

Part of what Obama says he liked about Rezko was his graciousness: "He never asked me for anything."

The relationship became controversial because of the now-famous home-purchase deal: When Obama and his wife bought a $1.65 million house in Chicago in June 2005, Rezko's wife simultaneously bought the adjoining lot and later sold part of it to the Obamas so that they could have a bigger yard.

Obama conceded in an interview with the Chicago Tribune last month that in the real estate deal, "I made a mistake in not seeing the potential conflicts of interest or appearances of impropriety." He said of Rezko's motivation in the purchase of the adjoining lot, "He perhaps thought that this would strengthen our relationship. He could have even thought he was doing me a favor."

What's troubling about this story is that at the time Obama bought the house in June 2005, allegations had already surfaced about Rezko's alleged influence-peddling.

(Yeah, right: "He never asked me for anything," nyuk nyuk. Neither did Don Corleone, who instead said only, "Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But, until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day." Graciousness, indeed.)

What's also "troubling" about this story is that Rezko's simultaneous purchase from the same sellers was at its full $650k asking price, whereas Obama got a $300k discount off the $1.95M asking price for his house. Oh, Rezko and the sellers of course deny that Rezko overpaid so Obama could underpay. (To admit that sort of oral quid pro quo almost certainly would have gotten everyone, including Obama, convicted of fraud in connection with the mortgage Rezko's wife took out.) But we're supposed to believe (as good little suckers) that the professional real estate mogul, the slumlord, couldn't manage to knock as much as $1000 of the asking price of the property his wife bought — indeed, doesn't even claim to have tried to — while clever, sophisticated Barack and Michelle simultaneously negotiated a $300k price drop from the very same sellers. Yeah, right.

Realistically, the whole set of transactions stink (look at the property layouts as shown in the video linked here) — and indeed, they smell exactly like a six-figure hidden cash contribution by a well-connected, now-convicted influence peddler directly to the Obama family. Note: two of Rezko's convictions are for money-laundering, a crime very typically committed through fraudulent, collusive, but hard-to-prove mis-evaluations of property values.

Ignatius also left out the part — famously used as a debate zinger by Hillary Clinton — about Obama's law firm defending slumlord Rezko in lawsuits against his slum-residing tenants. Doncha know Hill and Bill are cussin' the Rezko jury, though — not for their result as such, but for not reaching it before yesterday?

(Congrats, by the way, to U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald and his staff. Righteous work, folks.)


UPDATE (Wed Jun 4 @ 8:25pm): And this is no surprise, either:

"I'm saddened by today's verdict," Obama said in a statement. "This isn't the Tony Rezko I knew, but now he has been convicted by a jury on multiple charges that once again shine a spotlight on the need for reform."

Fooled! Fooled once again! Golly, Sen. Obama, how good a judge of character do you claim to be? Is there anybody you've associated with for the last couple of decades who you actually do know?

Posted by Beldar at 05:42 PM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Obama friend, client, contributor, and home-purchase benefactor Tony Rezko convicted on 16 of 24 corruption counts and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» ALASKA GOV. SARAH PALIN -- from PrestoPundit

Tracked on Jun 8, 2008 8:16:25 PM


(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jun 4, 2008 11:38:30 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: You are too harsh. It will be a big surprise to the readers of the New York TIMES, though the TIMES will doubtless explain it to them as corruption at the Justice Department. BushCo and Rove are behind this you know. Look who prosecuted Rezko: Fitzgerald, the dope who couldn't even convict Cheney. It's all a dirty frameup.

The video at the link you provide no longer works perhaps because of usage demands. I note with amusement that the video came from a)MSNBC, which doubtless will cause a different kind of thrill to run up Chris Matthews's leg, via b) MyDD, a site that leans so far to the left its doors are shaped like horseshoes. No wonder television ratings are sliding when this free gaudy entertainment is available.

A bit more seriously, I am wondering why Obama hasn't had the authorities sniffing around him. This would be an exceptionally delicate investigation in this election year. But if nothing else, I would expect the Illinois and US revenue services to be interested. Knocking off prices on one end and making them up on the other may not be tax fraud, but any revenue agent should be mighty interested in the circumstances. There would be a hell of a stink if Obama's seller was found liable for gift tax by the feds. Gaudy entertainment indeed. Just the sort of thing to brighten Hillary's day, and make her sit tight on Elba.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) Mike Thomas made the following comment | Jun 5, 2008 10:19:41 AM | Permalink

Is there anybody you've associated with for the last couple of decades who you actually do know?

Golly, Beldar, I was just asking the same thing about John McCain.
You would think that he would have known something about John Hagee before seeking his endorsement. Then he tosses his most prominent supporter here in San Antonio under the bus - Tom Loeffler - for being a lobbyist (Who knew!?!?) And now he is running scared from my neighbor Phil Gramm after basing his entire economic policy on his astute advice.
Is there anyone left here in San Antonio that McCain hasn't dissed?
I doubt he will be doing much campaigning in the Alamo City this fall.

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 5, 2008 4:33:38 PM | Permalink

Mr. Thomas, if you think Rezko's connection to Obama, or Wright's or Pfleger's, even remotely resembles the connection of Hagee to McCain, you're dreaming. Obama's cover decades and, in each case, he's the beneficiary or (using public funds via earmarks) the benefactor of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your observations' wit and good nature can't conceal their lack of comparative substance, but I'm grateful for your effort.

(4) Mike Thomas made the following comment | Jun 5, 2008 5:53:43 PM | Permalink

I agree that there is not even a remote resemblance. You are picking people out of Obama's past who have no connection to or influence over his campaign and comparing them to people who McCain sought out and courted for their specific endorsement (Hagee, Parsley and a whole mess of lobbyists) after his campaign was long underway.
And I'm afraid it is your effort to paint the Rezko connection as some huge scandal that lacks substance. Surely, you would agree that if there was anything there we would be seeing reams of articles flowing from the pages of the Wall Street Journal editorial section on a daily basis. I mean, they managed to take a pathetic non-scandal like Whitewater and churn out enough B.S. to fill a library. Surely they would be doing the same thing with Rezko if they could. But in today's editorial, for example, which is a backhanded shot at Obama, they don't mention Rezko even once. That should tell you something.

(5) hunter made the following comment | Jun 5, 2008 9:28:07 PM | Permalink

The Obamabots are fully programmed, apparently, with a high pass filter system to reduce critical thinking to milliwatt power, while BHO's minions bellow out
at a megawatt level.
This mind-numbing does in fact have precedent in history, but not really in America.

(6) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 5, 2008 10:59:05 PM | Permalink

Mr. Thomas: We do agree, it seems, that the MSM has not yet put adequate light on the Rezko-Obama connections. But there's five months left until the election. At this time in the 2004 election cycle, almost everyone in America still thought John Kerry was a war hero of unblemished and unquestionable record who'd spent two full tours in Vietnam and was beloved by all the men of the branch in the Navy in which he'd served. There's likewise time for the truth about Obama to spread into the national consciousness, and Sen. Clinton has given those of us who oppose Obama a nice head start on that for the general election.

People "out of [Obama's] past"? Here's a clue: Tonight, the woman who Rev. Wright married Obama to is putting their two lovely and innocent daughters to bed in the 2-million-dollar house Rezko's kickback allowed them to purchase. They're sleeping in the graft, Mr. Thomas, tonight and every night until the election. Is that temporally related enough for you?

So try this again, friend, seriously: You think Phil Gramm, whose only "impropriety" is to have finally earned some money with his economics PhD after leaving the Senate, really compares to 16-time financial felon Tony Rezko? Let's put the four of them together on a stage for questioning, and see what the public thinks, huh?

Of course, in a sense, that's what this post is doing. Bring your "A-game," though. What you've served up so far is pretty weak sauce, but I know you're holding back on Keating Five. There're are lots and lots of things about John McCain that I'm disinclined to defend, but his integrity — especially as compared to Obama's or any other traditional Daley-machine pol from Chicago — ain't one of those things. Bring it, bro — let's indeed make this election about character instead of about empty inspirational rhetoric!

(7) stan made the following comment | Jun 6, 2008 6:20:24 AM | Permalink


Don't you know jaywalking is a very serious crime? Here you are focusing on Obama's insignificant felonies when McCain has been jaywalking! And he's been jaywalking longer than Obama's been alive! Not just casual jaywalking, either. Serious jaywalking. On purpose!

That's the problem with right-wing lackeys -- focusing on silly little felonies by Obama when McCain has this serious, serious jaywalking problem. Just shows that right-wingers are a bunch of racists (who also want to rape the environment, and keep women barefoot and pregnant!).

The important thing is that Obama will bring meaning to our lives and bring peace to the world and make us healthy and save the planet from CO2 and make us proud of our country for the first time in our lives.

(8) hunter made the following comment | Jun 6, 2008 7:37:17 AM | Permalink

The people of Barakistan love their Obamassiah and don't need no stinkin' facts or critical thinking messing with their heads, OK?

(9) Mike Thomas made the following comment | Jun 6, 2008 12:14:34 PM | Permalink

Mr. Beldar: (and if you would like to drop the formalities and call me Mike that would be just fine) I would be more than happy to “bring it” and have an extended discussion about the Obama-McCain contest.
I think this is going to be a watershed election for our country and I generally love talking politics anyway. I promise to keep things civil on my side and I will ignore the poo flung by the monkeys in the peanut gallery.
One admission first, though. I had to quit reading your blog four years ago because I was so sickened and disgusted by the whole Swift Boat smear campaign against John Kerry. It got too personal for me because my late father was a Vietnam veteran who received a Silver Star for his actions during the Tet Offensive and all I could think was that the people who were disdainfully attacking Kerry’s war record would have done the same thing to my dad (or to any decorated military veteran) if it had been politically expedient to do so. I thought it was fair game to criticize Kerry for his actions after the war, but questioning whether he deserved his medals at all crossed a line for me.
I would hope that we can eventually steer away from trying to hype manufactured non-scandals and focus on the important issues that will actually make a difference in the lives of most Americans. That is where I think the Rezko and Rev. Wright stories fall.
I think this notion that the MSM has not “put adequate light” on the Rezko affair is laughable unless you are specifically referring to a harshly partisan and grossly unfair light which is where the WSJ editorial staff has fallen short lately.
The Chicago papers especially have been over this thing with a fine-toothed comb and Obama recently sat down with the editorial board of the Tribune for 92 minutes and answered every question put to him on this topic by three dozen journalists.
I hope you don’t think that by simply repeating a specious allegation over and over makes it true. Your insinuation that Rezko’s purchase of the property next to Obama’s house was part of a money laundering scheme is ridiculous. The notion that Rezko overpaid for the property so that Obama could get a price reduction on his house is undercut by the fact that the property is currently on the market for $300,000 more than its purchase price (and that is after a section of the property was carved off and sold to Obama for $100,000).
Obama admits that it was “boneheaded” to let Rezko carve off and sell him part of the land so that he could extend his fence around the property and have just a sliver of a side yard. But there was ultimately nothing illegal about the transaction. And it also seems incredible that a man about to become president of the United States was recently having to deal with something so innocuous as trying to extend his property by a few feet so that he could build a fence. It makes Obama seem like much more of a regular guy to me. It is certainly something that the Bushes never have to worry about at their Kennebunkport compound or McCain either, whose wife I should note is wealthier than Theresa Heinz Kerry.
As for Phil Gramm, it is inaccurate to try and make a comparison between him and Rezko. We certainly don’t see Obama taking advice from Rezko or looking to include him in his cabinet. No, the more accurate comparison is between Rezko and Keating. More on that later.
As for Gramm, my beef with him is not that he cashed in as a lobbyist once he left the Senate. It is what he did right before leaving the Senate that seriously screwed things up for us.
The “Enron Loop Hole” is Gramm’s political legacy which continues to haunt us today and the fact that McCain has embraced him and wants to have him as his Treasury Secretary is enough in and of itself to oppose his candidacy for president.

(10) hunter made the following comment | Jun 6, 2008 7:52:02 PM | Permalink

If you cannot even handle having the truth told about Kerry, how can one discuss the issues with you?

(11) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 7, 2008 2:36:26 AM | Permalink

Mike: I do genuinely appreciate the civil tone and good humor.

I, too, have a dad who was a naval officer, and I've written about him here from time to time. He didn't bug out of combat after six weeks based on a pretense of multiple wounds. It's the SwiftVets, not Kerry, who've been subjected to calumny -- for their objections to Kerry were characterized as political rather than character-based. I got into the argument to begin with because I'd had the rare opportunity to cross-examine John O'Neill as a hostile witness under oath in a multi-million dollar case in which he had every incentive to fudge. He didn't, even though that meant he had to agree with me on a lot of points that were unflattering to the side who'd hired him. He's a straight shooter and a patriot, not a political hit-man, and I believe that to be true of virtually all of the other vets who joined his efforts. You're certainly not going to convince me otherwise at this late date.

Back to Obama's house: Under anyone's definition, the distance between "inexcusably boneheaded" and "culpable" is microscopic, purely a matter of judgment. I care not a whit what the property is "listed" for now, three years later; it could be "listed" for $3M, but that would be equally meaningless. Nor would even a sale to unrelated parties be meaningful now. And none of Obama's or Rezko's transactions can remotely qualify for the description of "arms'-length." The reason that crooks like Rezko favor real estate transactions for money laundering is because valuations are so subjective.

There's not a single new fact listed in the editorial you've linked, other than that Obama made yet another bunch of MSM editors swoon. Ninety-two minutes? Look, these transactions would take even a very a good and well-prepared lawyer at least a full day to explore in a sworn deposition. Scoundrels like Rezko thrive on schemes that are impenetrable to scrutiny of lay newspaper reporters; why do you think it took months for Rezko's trial?

Best case for you, in the Senator's own words: He was a "bone-head" exercising colossal misjudgment on the largest financial transaction of his or his wife's life; the felon at least thought he was doing a favor for Obama; the transaction was highly irregular; he stone-walled on it for months; and now his family is still living in the "favor." Come on, friend: That stinks of Chicago politics at its very, very worst, and your candidate is either part of that or lacks any sense of smell.

You're suggesting that the public should ignore this incredible misjudgment, and yet trust him to make the much harder judgments — of people, of appearances, of motivations, of consequences — that are required of every POTUS, every day?

Trust me, the public scrutiny of Obama's ties to Rezko has just started.

(12) Max Lybbert made the following comment | Jun 7, 2008 3:54:04 AM | Permalink

Yes, I've been thinking that negotiations in general have a lot to do with character judgment. Isn't that why the media made so much hay with President Bush's statement that he'd seen Putin's soul? It turns out Bush was wrong on that, and it has cost the US several opportunities.

Obama's been saying that many of his long-time friends weren't what he thought them to be. From his pastor to Ayers to Rezko to Phlegher to Bernadine Dohrn. The thing is, each of them were famous for being who they are.

It doesn't bode well for "no preconditions talks" with Iran.

(13) hunter made the following comment | Jun 7, 2008 7:54:46 AM | Permalink

The thing I don't like about BHO is that reasonably bright people like Mike, for instance, have constructed this entire infrastructure of excuses to explain away BHO's lack of accomplishment, lack of job performance, choice of radical extremists as friends, bad policy ideas, discomfort with American patriotism, etc., based on nothing more than fervent desire for 'change'.
Part of it is clearly due to the ineffectiveness of Bush to promote or defend his policies, even the ones that have worked well. Part of it, I think, is that by finally facing up to Bill Clinton's massive problems, they need someone to cling to and BHO is handy.
But the conversion of America into Barakistan is not a sure bet, or even very likely even at this late date. When he is not reading a teleprompter or prepared speech, he does not do so well. And his need to shed lifelong friends is certainly not over.
It is a very long time from now to the first Tuesday in November. Barak has never faced a real election before, much less one not controlled by the Chicago political machine.

(14) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jun 7, 2008 11:14:10 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Thomas: OK, let's take you at your word that:

"I would hope that we can eventually steer away from trying to hype manufactured non-scandals and focus on the important issues that will actually make a difference in the lives of most Americans."

It's a little peculiar that most of the rest of your post is on Rezko, which you say is a manufactured scandal. I'll let others handle that. I have other fish to fry.

For me, the big issue in this campaign is foreign affairs, particularly the conflict in Iraq and more broadly, the struggle against radical Islam. I acknowledge that others may use a different lens to view the election, but I hope you will grant that my choice is worth considering.

What is Obama's foreign policy education or experience in foreign affairs prior to his election to the US Senate? He got a degree in political science, specificially international relations, from Columbia. If he had to prepare a senior thesis as his wife did at Princeton, I've not been able to find it. He has no publications in foreign affairs that I've been able to find. His other publications are DREAMS FROM MY FATHER and two poems written for a Columbia undergraduate literary magazine.

This lack isn't fatal; Ronald Reagan had no more experience when he jumped in the saddle on 20 January 1981 (after having to wipe all the poo off of it that a monkey from the peanut gallery had spread on it.) Reagan, did, however have a great many publications. He had written a syndicated column after being governor, from 1977-79. He had given many speeches and radio commentaries, some on foreign affairs. We now know that he wrote the bulk of them himself. He didn't do all the research himself, but he did apply pen to paper. So he had given thought to foreign affairs. Not that it did him much good: "simplistic" was about the kindest word the press could give to that. But twenty years on, Reagan's "simplistic" notions look a good deal better than the press then (and now) would have you believe.

OK, Obama is now a US Senator. What does he do to educate himself? He joins the Foreign Relations Committee. This is a splendid way to learn. This should reassure me.

It doesn't, not one bit.

As you know, Senate Committees are divided into subcommittees. Which ones did Obama join?:

a) African
b) European (he chairs this subcommittee)
c) Foreign Assistance
d) East Asia and the Pacific

This is a dismal choice. Africa? What a stereotype: "Here's a black guy, and his old man was born in Kenya. Give him Africa." Nor can Africa, excluding the Sudan and the countries on the Mediterranean, have much relevance to radical Islam.

Foreign Assistance? There's precious little relevance to radical Islam there.

Europe? This at least would expose Obama to what Europe thinks of radical Islam. That is nothing new to him; Obama is in an echo chamber so far as that is concerned.

East Asia? At last, something of substance. China has difficulties with Islam, a great deal of power, and an itch for a bigger place in the sun.

What did Obama do on these subcommittees? He became chair of Europe in January 2007. he did not convene a single hearing, nor take a single trip to Europe in all of 2007. I haven't been able to find any hard information if he has in 2008, but I would doubt it. He's been campaigning too much for that. This sort of stuff is important. Not only does it educate its holder, it gives other people a chance to size up Obama. As chair of Europe, Obama would have no trouble getting in to see the Foreign or Defence Ministers of any European country, and likely even the Prime Ministers. He has not done so.

Let me give you one---out of many---possible troubles Obama might have learned about. Belgium, as you know, is a parliamentary democracy, under King Albert. Belgium held elections in June 2007, from which the ruling coalition lost enough seats in Parliament to be forced to
resign. The King invited another party to form a government. It took until March 2008 to get a government in place. Nine months. During this time, the civil service ran the country. What took them so long? Why is this relevant to the United States? The press would feel its tingling leg and blow it off, snorting "Belgium." This is no more than we expect from the press. But what would Obama do? Does he know about this situation? I doubt it. And this problem is only with one small European country. On those foreign affairs subjects that Obama can't blow off, e.g. Iraq, Iran, North Korea, the systemic transfer of American wealth via oil purchases to the most hostile and dangerous region on earth, the subordination of trade to Africa to domesti agriculture policy, the refusal to extend a NAFTA style pact to Columbia, the hideous trade imbalance with China---on all these Obama has little to say beyond that George Bush is stupid and McCain will be a second Bush. This sort of frivolity may make legs tingle, but it is dam bad foreign policy. Did you read his speech to AIPAC? "I am a friend of Israel," says Obama. Not if you are ready to talk to the Iranian leadership without conditions. Such a contradiction is grotesque, but he doesn't seem able to see it. Who's the real Obama? The one who roared that NAFTA needed to be revised when he was on the stump in the hard hit state of Ohio? Or the man who unofficially sent and unofficial adviser to the Canadian government to say that it was all a lot of campaign hooey, don't take it serious? What does he think of the cesspool known as Myanmar? Is he ready to send over the troops and pull down the hellhole government there? If so, why yell about Iraq? If not, what does he propose to do?

What does Obama think about the notorious corruption in the United Nations, corruption that has drained the UN of any real effectiveness beyond spending dough like water?

I better haul up here. But there's a many more questions I could ask. I'm afraid to; I have a notion that the answers would depress me mightily. Obama may be ready to turn his back to the world, but that just means his back will have a lot of knives stuck in it.

Stan will doubtless throw a brick at me, but I will tell you that the reason Obama causes tingles to run up legs is because GW Bush is not an inspiring speaker. Great Presidents need to be more than just speakers, but without that capacity, all the other talents won't be enough to make a President great. GW has resolution in spades, but that isn't enough as even Churchill would admit.

Finally I'm puzzled by this sentence of your comment:

"I will ignore the poo flung by the monkeys in the peanut gallery."

I wasn't aware that Jimmy Carter read this blog, let alone commented on it. What "handle" does he use here?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

PS--The problem with Belgium is that it is really two countries, the Dutch speaking Flemish north, and the French speaking Walloon south. The two factions have never gotten along, and are running out of patience with each other. I say by 2020, Belgium will be no more. There may be two new countries, or there may be one new country, and a rather larger Netherlands. The one thing that might stop this is an inablity to decide who gets Brussels, which has all the loot in the country. The lesson from having two linguistic peoples in a nation has not been lost on Canada---and it shouldn't be lost on the United States, where the La Raza cranks bawl and dream of the Southwest and California becoming a Mexican subsidiary. Don't tell Obama; the dreams are just too happy!

(15) narciso made the following comment | Jun 7, 2008 3:15:31 PM | Permalink

A significant examination of Obama's affiliations like this Mike:

From John Fund's article of 03 MAR 2008 at Jewish World Review:

Mr. Obama has admitted that the 2005 land deal that he and Mr. Rezko were involved in was a "boneheaded" mistake, in part because his friend was already rumored to be under federal investigation. The newly elected Mr. Obama bought his $1.65 million home on the same day, June 15, that Mr. Rezko's wife bought the plot of land next to it from the same seller for $625,000. Seven months later she sold a slice of the land to the trust that Mr. Obama had put the house into, so the senator could expand his garden.

Mr. Obama has strenuously denied suggestions that the same-day sale enabled him to pay $300,000 under the house's asking price because Mrs. Rezko paid full price for the adjoining lot, or that he asked the Rezkos for help in the matter. Both actions would be clear violations of Senate ethics rules barring the granting or asking of favors.

Still, there are anomalies. Mr. Obama admits that he and Mr. Rezko took a tour of the house before it and the adjoining plot were sold. Financial records given to federal prosecutors a year later show Mrs. Rezko had a salary of only $37,000 and assets of $35,000. In court proceedings at that time, to explain how much his bail should be, Mr. Rezko declared that he had "no income, negative cash flow, no liquid assets."

So where did the money for Mrs. Rezko's $125,000 down payment — and the collateral for her $500,000 loan from a local bank controlled by Amrish Mahajan, like Mr. Rezko a Chicago political fixer — come from?

The London Times reports that, three weeks before the land transactions, Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi billionaire living in London, loaned $3.5 million to Mr. Rezko, who was his Chicago business partner. Mr. Auchi's office says he had "no involvement in or knowledge of" the property purchase. Mr. Auchi is a press-shy property developer (estimated worth: $4 billion) who was convicted of corruption in France in 2003 for his involvement in the Elf affair, the biggest political and corporate fraud inquiry in Europe since World War II. He was fined $3 million and given a 15-month prison term that was suspended provided he committed no further crimes.

Mr. Auchi was also a top official in the Iraqi oil ministry in the 1970s. He has for years vigorously denied charges he had dealings with Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. However, an official report to the Pentagon inspector general in 2004 obtained by the Washington Times cited "significant and credible evidence" of involvement by Mr. Auchi's companies in the Oil for Food scandal and illicit smuggling of weapons to the Hussein regime.

So Tony Rezko hooks up with Nadhmi Auchi for a sweetheart $3.5 million loan of which Mr. Obama gets a lovely $300,000 discount on an adjoining house, and he didn't ask the Rezko's for help on the matter? That sounds pretty much like the *same* Tony Rezko to me. I am sure that getting a price break on a house like that from a woman who can't afford it is a normal, everyday happening in Chicago.

And when it comes to associates of Tony Rezko asking Sen. Obama for help, you need look no further than Aiham Alsammarae. Who is he? Well, according to John Batchelor at Human Events on 03 MAR 2008, Mr. Alsammarae is a fugitive from justice in Iraq convicted of stealing $650 million from the government there:

A mysterious fugitive from Iraqi justice named Aiham Alsammarae, who is also a Chicago resident, is the focus of a politically fraught episode in the association between accused political fixer Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who goes on federal trial today in Chicago for graft, and Senator Barack Obama, the most spectacular Illinois presidential candidate in half a century.

"We want him back to serve his sentence of fourteen years," said an Iraqi government official in Baghdad last week. "He stole $650 million from the people of Iraq, and from the people of the United States, and he was tried and convicted in an Iraqi court in October 2006 for his crimes. We have a four-inch-thick file of his crimes. He plundered the Ministry of Electricity. Dates, bank accounts, dummy companies, a lot of them in the States. We want him, and we want the money back."

Now from that you can gather that this is not a simple situation and right you are! Say, when you hear complaints of 'mismanagement' of the effort in Iraq, remember that it doesn't help when one of those doing the complaining, Sen. Barack Obama, has ties to one of those doing the problem-making. Just what are those ties? Well it is through that guy he says that has changed so much:

What connects the fugitive Mr. Alsammarae to the candidate Barack Obama? The short answer is Mr. Obama's entanglement with his long-time fundraiser and friend Mr. Rezko, who was linked to Mr. Alsammarae in at least two aborted, fraudulent contracts with the CPA and the Iraqi government before Mr. Alsammarae's conviction and flight.

With political and INTEL connections in the US, Mr. Alsammarae would land a job in the immediate post-war Ministry of Electricity in Iraq, and then hit up Nadhmi Auchi for some help:

Two months later it was reported in Chicago that as early as 2004, while Mr. Alsammarae was a minister with authority to approve contracts, he had joined with Mr. Rezko and the London-based General Mediterranean Holdings, headed by the billionaire British investor Nadhmi Auchi, in a contract to construct a 250-megawatt plant in the Kurdistani city of Chamchamal.

A member of the development team at Mr. Rezko's Chicago-based company Rezmar said in 2005 that Mr. Rezko possessed a "formidable overseas network of business relationships" that permitted Rezmar to join together up to 30 companies in order to begin the plant's construction as early as January 2006.

Yes, Tony Rezko has 'formidable overseas network of business relationships' via his friends Nadhmi Auchi, head of BNP-Paribas bank and Mr. Alsammarae who had contractual obligation authority in the CPA in Iraq. And then the contract gets signed:

In addition, in April 2005, one month before Mr. Alsammarae left his post, his Ministry of Electricity signed a contract for $50 million with Companion Security to provide training to Iraqis to guard electrical plants by flying them to Illinois for classes.

Companion Security was headed by a former Chicago policeman with a troubled history, Daniel T. Frawley, in partnership with Mr. Rezko and in association with Daniel Mahru, the lawyer for the original contract and Mr. Rezko's former business partner. In April 2006, Mr. Frawley entered negotiations with Governor Rod Blagojevich's staff to lease a military facility in Illinois to be a training camp. In August 2006, Mr. Frawley started negotiations with Mr. Obama's U.S. Senate staff to complete the contract.

The discussions with Mr. Obama's staff continued over many months, including e-mails and conferences with an Obama staffer, Seamus Ahern. Questions raised by this contact go to the issue of whether or not Mr. Obama ever favored Mr. Rezko's commercial ties. Mr. Obama has said often that he performed no favors for Mr. Rezko.

The timeline of Companion discussions in 2006 is important to note: April 2006 Frawley speaks to governor's office; August 2006 Frawley speaks to senator's office; October 2006 indictment of Rezko revealed; October 2006 Rezko arrested upon return from Syria; October 2006 Alsammarae convicted in Baghdad and makes his first escape attempt; December 2006 Alsammarae escapes form Baghdad.

Did Mr. Obama's staff and Governor Blagojevich's staff not know how these events related to their discussions with Mr. Frawley? Importantly both Governor Blagojevich's office and Mr. Obama's office later explained they did not know of the link between Mr. Frawley and Mr. Rezko. Senate staffs are expected to perform due diligence on inquiries, such as is this matter about campaign contributions or unsavory activity. What was the nature of Mr Obama's staff's inquiry into the Ilinois resident Mr. Frawley's ability to secure a contract with the CPA's Ministry of Electricity in Bagdad from April, 2005?

Well, that is 'hope and change' for you, no?

Don't investigate and hope for the best, as that is really a change from business as usual: don't look at all!

But then things turn worse with Mr. Alsammarae doing even more damage in Iraq:

Oddly, after Mr. Alsammarae left his ministry post in 2005, he was reported that summer to be forming a Sunni political organization with participation by insurgents, some of whom threatened in public declarations to murder him. An intelligence analyst with knowledge of Syria commented that this episode may illustrate Mr. Alsammarae's then-strong, active links to the Baathist elite in exile in Syria, who have been a major source of money and operations to the Iraqi insurgency these last years; and that Mr. Alsammarae's freelancing rankled the so-called foreign elements in the insurgency.

The strangest of all events was not Mr. Alsammarae's arrest for theft in August 2006, nor his conviction in a Baghdad court in October 2006, but rather the two jailbreaks in October and December 2006. In the first instance, private armed men he may have hired took him from his jail cell in the Green Zone soon after his conviction in court. A
report indicates that he was stopped at the Bagdad Airport carrying a Chinese passport. American officials later returned Mr. Alsammarae to Iraqi custody. At least one American with the International Police Liaison Officer program lost his job because of this first jailbreak.

This is about the time that Mr. Alsammarae's family in the United States sought help; there is a report that Mr. Alsammarae's daughter appealed directly to the office of U.S. Senator Barack Obama.

Well, if you are going to decry violence in Iraq as a reason to leave, it is good to have an 'insider' that can cause such violence, no? And once caught and convicted who does his daughter turn to? The President, perhaps? You know, Commander in Chief and Head of State? Or to a junior Senator of Illinois? And what happens then but the second jailbreak, this one successful:

According to an Iraqi official with knowledge of the case, the Iraqi government wants to know how Mr. Alsammarae was able to go from Iraq to Jordan without a passport. This official also wants to know why the U.S. Embassy in Amman gave Mr. Alsammarae shelter.

And how did Mr. Alsammarae obtain a new U.S. passport to travel from Amman to Turkey? Days afterward, from his Turkish hotel room Mr. Alsammarae telephoned not only the Iraqi government to taunt them after his escape, boasting of pizza and cold beer, but he also called a New York Times reporter, James Glanz, and boasted of his getaway, which Mr. Alsammarae described as "the Chicago way."


Who are the people who have most to worry about what Mr. Alsammarae knows and can tell the federal court in Chicago, and the Iraqi court in Baghdad when Prime Minsister Nouri al-Maliki's government recaptures Mr. Alsammarae?

The man with the most to lose right now is Mr. Rezko, because he is already in custody as a flight risk and on trial for gross graft in Illinois, the first of what is said to be many trials against the Chicago political elite that Chicago columnist John Kass calls "the combine." Potential revelations in that four-inch-thick file in Baghdad about Mr. Rezko's link to Mr. Alsammarae threaten indictment and trial on two continents.

The second man with much to lose regarding what Mr. Alsammarae knows is the mysterious and genuinely powerful Nahdmi Auchi of London, a British citizen who, born in Iraq in 1937, has been for decades closely linked with the Baathists. In 2005, Mr. Auchi was reported to have involved his company in the Chamchamal electrical generating plant deal that was used as a major ploy for the plundering of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity. As recently as this month, Mr. Auchi's representative denied that Mr. Auchi's company, General Mediterranean Holding, invested in the Rezko-Alsammarae deal for Chamchamal in 2004-2005, a denial that does not explain the well-sourced 2005 published reports of the linkage.


What is most striking about this Pentagon report is that it is from the year 2004, when Mr. Auchi traveled by private aircraft to Midway Airport in Chicago and then to a fete at the Four Season Hotel, where he met with his business partner in Chicago real estate, Mr. Rezko, as well as with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Also present that night, according to a fresh report by James Bone and Dominic Kennedy of the London Times, was State Senator Barack Obama, who had recently won the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat that next fall. Bone and Kennedy report that Mr. Auchi and Mr. Obama shook hands. Mr. Obama's aide does not now recall the handshake but does agree that Mr. Obama was present in the hotel that evening.

It may be significant that in a snapshot from the April hotel meeting that shows Governor Blagojevich making remarks to a dinner table beside a smiling Mr. Auchi, there is a third well-dressed man in the photograph, mustachioed, jovial, receding hairline, who greatly resembles other photographs from November 2004 of Iraqi CPA Minister of Electricity Aiham Alsammarae.

Mr. Alsammarae may or may not have been in the room that night. Pictures are useful indicators but his presence is not confirmed. However, he is certainly now accused and convicted of having been in a conspiracy in Iraq with two other men in that room: Tony Rezko, who is regarded by some intelligence analysts as a money-handler for unsavory agents in his native Damascus, and Nadhmi Auchi, who is regarded by Pentagon analysts as a money-handler for Baathist-linked agents in the Middle East..

A lingering question about that Four Seasons evening four years ago is, did Mr. Alsammarae, if he was present, meet the senatorial candidate, Mr. Obama?

Today the questions include: does Senator Obama know that, through his unfortunate association with Mr. Rezko, he was once exposed to grand larceny at the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity from 2003 to 2006? Does Senator Obama know that the Iraqi government wants Mr. Alsammarae returned to face his punishment and to cooperate in ongoing discoveries about additional crimes? Does Senator Obama know that there is a fugitive in Chicago who creates unhappy questions about his recent political associations?

That is definitely the same Tony Rezko that Mr. Obama claims not to know how he got the way he is when he knew him when he was exactly like he is now. Of course he has no recollection of even meeting Nadhmi Auchi, either, does Sen. Obama, as reported at Counter Currents on 16 MAY 2008 by Evelyn Pringle, that one may not stand up so well, either:

The line from Obama spokesman, Ben LaBolt, was again: "As he has said previously, Senator Obama does not recall meeting Nadhmi Auchi at any time or on any occasion, and this includes any event that may have been held for Mr. Auchi."

"Senator and Mrs. Obama have no recollection of attending any such event," he stated.

But on April 16, 2008, Sun-Times columnist, Michael Sneed, reported that Obama had even made toasts at Rezko's party, and wrote:

“Dem presidential contender Barack Obama's handlers may be telling the press Obama has NO "recollection" of a 2004 party at influence peddler Tony Rezko's Wilmette house, but a top Sneed source claims Obama not only gave Rezko's guest of honor, Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi, a big welcome . . . but he made a few toasts!”

Michael Sneed runs a gossip column in Chicago with the benefit of having a number of stringers that are well connected and willing to spill juicy gossip to her about insider events. That is a necessary thing to have when working with the Chicago political 'Combine' that crosses both parties.

In an April 26, 2008, interview with Tribune reporter, John McCormick, Obama did not deny that he and Michelle were at the party but said he did not recall being there, stating:

"I have to say that I just don't recall it. I mean this has been, I guess, four years ago. My understanding, through his lawyer, Mr. Auchi doesn't recall meeting me and you know, I can't speak for other people's recollections.

“But I've said publicly, on many occasions, that I had a social relationship with Mr. Rezko."

The last comment is ridiculous because what Obama has said on “many occasions,” is he only had lunch or breakfast with Rezko once or twice a year and he and Michelle had dinner with Rezko only three or four times in the 15 years they knew each other. When asked whether Rezko may have been using him to impress potential investors, Obama replied:

"I just don't have a recollection of the event. As I said, I was in the middle of running a U.S. Senate race. So, you know, I was speaking all the time, probably six, seven, eight times a day."

“Right,” McCormick said, “but why go to this event that was specifically designed for Rezko investors?”

"As I said, I have no recollection of the event. Alright?" Obama replied. When asked whether he would remember making a toast to Auchi, Obama stated:

"I'm fairly certain I would remember giving a specific toast to somebody. Keep in mind, though, that this was right in the midst of my U.S. Senate campaign, so I was doing three or four events a day.

“So, I mean, there were very few events where I wasn't speaking on anything. But I have no recollection of this particular event."

However, the Tribune has obtained a copy of an Obama "upcoming events" schedule on his old Senate campaign web site which shows Obama had no personal

(16) Mike Thomas made the following comment | Jun 8, 2008 1:01:31 AM | Permalink

I'm flattered by the lengthy, well thought out responses to my comments and while I was not intending to extend this thread further I now feel compelled to respond at least briefly.
First let me clarify and say that I am not someone who thinks Obama is the ultimate, dream candidate who walks on water etc.
I think he has a number of significant weaknesses with his relative inexperience being chief among them. However, I think he is very bright, learns fast and has shown remarkable political skills throughout this primary campaign. Plus, I recognize that we are not just electing a president, but also an entire administration, hundreds of political appointees and possibly a couple of Supreme Court justices. So you can't just judge everything by the flaws or fortunes of one candidate because the president doesn't do it all by his or her self.
So while Obama may not have the most experience in foreign policy or half a dozen other key areas, he will be surrounded by people who are experienced and who will have an entirely different approach than the neo-con ideologues who have made such a mess of things these past seven and a half years.

(17) hunter made the following comment | Jun 8, 2008 7:04:01 AM | Permalink

Please tell us we are not once again going to be dealing with democrats pretending character does not count.
But to speak to the people he has surrounded himself already, significant questions are already answered, and the answers are not good. Certainly those advisors who have brought him this far are not going to simply disappear if he somehow wins, no matter how well practiced BHO is in throwing folk with lifelong deep relationships under the bus.

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