Rezko Primer II: Political Donations

Update 3/17/2008:  Updated with information from the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune interviews with Obama on 3/14/2008

The best tally of political donations from Rezko, Rezko companies (Illinois allows corporate donations), and Rezko allies was done by the Sun-Times which tallied the donations and determined there were a total of $168,000 to Obama from Rezko and his associates. Scroll down to the pdf on the left side of the story to see the details.

As of January 20th, Obama had divsested himself of $84,350 of those donations with the latest divested including:

From that money, $10,000 was donated to Obama’s successful run for the Senate in the name of Glenview entrepreneur Joseph Aramanda, the story said.

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*$10,500 from Michel Malek, a neurologist and former investor in Rezko Enterprises.

*$2,000 from Fortunee Massuda, a founder of a chain of foot and ankle clinics and a former investor in Rezko Enterprises.

*$3,000 from Imad Almanaseer, a real estate and fast-food impresario and former member of LARC Realty, a Rezko business.

Obama hasn’t given all money related to Rezko back apparently arguing some of it was independent of Rezko–a statement that is probably true given some of the donors knew him independently of Rezko. However, it stands in contrast to Clinton’s decision to divest every dollar tied to Norman Hsu in December. Other’s who had donations returned include Rezko’s companies and direct contributions and donations from:

Michael Winter, who gave $3,000 to Obama’s Senate campaign in June 2003, and Myron Cherry, who gave $500 to Obama in July 2004, have been publicly identified as Individuals “G” and “H,” respectively, in one case against Rezko.

Sun Times June 25, 2007

Cherry is a Clinton supporter, but obviously not tied to her with a connection through Rezko. Cherry has also cooperated with the investigation and is one of the few people to publicly discuss his involvment.

Given there is only about $80,000 left with any tie to Rezko, it would probably be politically smart to donate that amount.

Trib Interview estimate from 1996 Campaign for State Senate:

When I decided to run for the state Senate, the way that I decided to run for the state Senate was I had been helping Alice Palmer, who was then running for Congress. She had asked me to help. She was giving up her seat, and I was, um, I got involved in her campaign, and some people asked me if I’d be interested potentially in taking her seat.

Tony Rezko, I think, had provided some assistance to her at that time, so I think that may be the first time where we started talking about politics. He agreed to support my Senate campaign. He was an active developer in, on the South Side, and he’d, so he had some relationships with some of the aldermen in the area that I did not have relationships with and he introduced me to them. It’s hard to imagine, given the kind of fundraising I’m doing now, but the total amount that I raised for that first race was $100,000.

And I think it’s fair to say, and this is an estimate, that Tony Rezko probably raised $10,000 to $15,000 of that. I don’t, I can’t say precisely because I no longer have those records.

But I think that’s probably a rough guesstimate. As a consequence of that support, we became friendlier, and I probably had, I would probably talk to him maybe five to six months a year. We might have breakfast or we might have lunch.

At that time I knew him as a businessman who also had an interest in politics, but did not know the details of his various business interactions.

Congressional Run:

When I ran for Congress, I asked him if he’d be interested in supporting me, as I asked a number of people all across the city who I thought might be interested in the race. It was a difficult decision for him because he had a relationship with Bobby Rush. But he nevertheless agreed to support me over Bobby Rush.

And I would say in my congressional race, I raised about $600,000 total. I can’t say exactly how much he raised but I’d say, you know, he was on my finance committee along with a number of other people. My guess is he might have raised $50,000 to $75,000. That would be my guess. And, obviously, I appreciated his support. I lost that race as all of you have recorded, uh, amply.

Sun-Times State Senate and Congressional Run:

Probably our relationship deepened when I started my first political campaign for the state Senate. He had been a supporter of Alice Palmer’s. I had been a supporter and was working to help Alice Palmer in her congressional run. And since she was giving up her seat, there was a question of who would be her successor, and some people talked to me about potentially running for that seat. And Tony was one of the people I talked to about that. And he then supported me in that first race.

It’s a sign of how much times have changed that I raised a grand total of $100,000 in that first race.

And this is an estimate. He probably raised about $10,000 of that $100,000.

So we became friendly at that point, and through most of my years in the Senate, he was somebody I considered a friend, and I’d probably see maybe when I wasn’t in the midst of a campaign, I would probably see maybe six times a year. We’d have lunch or we’d have breakfast. And, during that period of time, I had another re-election, and so he probably raised another $10,000 for me. I then ran for Congress, and he chose to support me in my race against Bobby Rush, although though he had a relationship with Bobby Rush, and that was loyalty that I appreciated.

We’d continue to have lunches or breakfasts. We’d talk about politics. We’d talk about family. In terms of other than lunch or breakfast he and I had, socially, Michelle and I probably had a couple of dinners, or two or three dinners with him and his wife during the course of this six or seven or eight years. Visited their home in Lake Geneva once for the day. And I have to say during that entire time, he never asked me for anything. He never did any favors for me other than obviously supporting my campaigns. He never gave me any gifts. Gave me no indication he was setting me up to ask for favors in the future. In fact, most of the work that he was doing at the time involved development here in the city of Chicago, as far as I knew, and so most of his interactions, in terms of politics, were more at the city level, municipal level and the county level. He was close to John Stroger and was strongly involved there.

US Senate Race Trib:

And right around, right after my congressional race, as some of you will recall, that’s when Tony Rezko started, that’s when Rod Blagojevich started running for governor. And Tony became a very important part of the governor’s core political team. So he was fairly busy with that, I was working in the [state] Senate, didn’t have as many interactions with him at the time.

And it wasn’t until, um, it wasn’t until I decided that I was running for the United States Senate that we started having a lot of conversations about politics again. I expressed my interests, described how I thought this race might go, and he ultimately ended up supporting me and was a part of our finance committee and was listed as part of our finance committee.

Again, at that time, there were no indications that he was involved in anything inappropriate. And I would say that, you know, our best assessment and the money that we’ve identified that he raised for us was about $160,000 during my U.S. Senate primary. And all that money has been returned, by the way.

Now, the only other things I’ll say about the relationship that I think are important, he never asked me to do anything when I was in the state Senate. At no time did he ever ask for any favors from the government. In fact, most of the time until he started becoming active with the Blagojevich campaign, he didn’t really have that many interests before state government. He was active, I think, at the local level as a developer, and so he constantly had things going before the City Council and probably the county, but there was really no occasion for me to help him in any significant way.

The one exception that I know of that he did have an interest in down in Springfield was on gaming. He was, he had an interest in, he was one of the minority investors in the Emerald Casino, and you’ll recall there was a big to-do about that.

[Tribune note: Rezko expressed interest in becoming an investor but ultimately did not, according to 2005 Illinois Gaming Board testimony by former Gaming Board administrator Sergio Acosta.]

And in that circumstance, actually I was firmly opposed to gaming and some of the proposals that were being made down in Springfield, and he never pressured me in any way to get involved in that process in any meaningful way.

And so my relationship to him was as somebody who had always been a supporter, who had always been aboveboard, who had always been gracious to me and my family, who had not offered me gifts or inducements that would lead me to be suspicious of him and who had supported me, even in times where it was not politically easy for him to do.

That’s the context in which my relationship and friendship with Tony evolved.

Sun-Times:

Fast-forward. After I get trounced in my congressional race, in that same race, or at that same time, Blagojevich is starting to run. Tony becomes very active in Blagojevich’s inner circle and campaigns, and frankly during that year and half or two years where he’s helping Blagojevich, I don’t have that much interaction with him. After Blagojevich is elected, Tony is part of the inner circle that’s helping him put the administration together, he does contact me about – well, the Blagojevich office, I don‚t think Tony necessarily contacts me – but the Blagojevich office contacts our office about recommendations for potential people just to fill state jobs generally. I didn’t have some big patronage organization or operation. I had one district director and a bunch of volunteers who all were employed elsewhere. So, I think we submitted just a list of people that were mostly, you know, some of them were people who‚d sent us resumes in the past or other people we thought we might be interested but they weren’t people who were connected to our political organization in any meaningful way. Or they weren’t people I knew particularly well. The one exception I do remember talking to Tony about was Dr. Eric Whitaker, who was a longtime friend of mine from Harvard. He and I played basketball together when he was getting his masters in public health at Harvard, while was at law school there. He had expressed an interest in that job. He did contact me, or Tony contacted me, and I gave him a glowing recommendation because I thought he was outstanding.

So fast-forward to the U.S. Senate race. Tony joined my finance committee. He wasn’t my largest fund-raiser but he was a significant fundraiser. He only held one event for us at his home in Wilmette. It was a successful event. We think he raised about $70,000 himself for the event, and that accounts for our initial representation that we had $60,000 or $70,000. Subsequently, though, we have now traced about $160,000 that was connected to him that he raised that we know of or we’re certain of or there’s some connection we can draw. All of that money has been given to charity, but he did host that fund-raiser. He was an active member of the finance committee. And we were successful in that race.

4 thoughts on “Rezko Primer II: Political Donations

  1. Why would he not donate the $80,000? Obama raises $50 million in a month. Even if he gave back $1 million he would be way ahead. Why is he being so stubborn about this? Why all the smoke and mirrors for such small amounts? Doesn’t seem like the sound judgement and positive change he has been selling.

  2. He only did after I posted that! He donated about $80,000 before the newspaper reports, and only later donated the other $80,000. You should check your facts before you call someone ignorant, woefully or otherwise. You seem to be woefully journalistic.

    Why he didn’t donate it all right away when he clearly could afford to calls into question his judgement. He could have distanced himself immeadiately, but choose to do it piece meal – waiting for the media (reference to real journalists – not you) to call him on it. Why is that not a valid question?

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