Since Rezko has become an issue in the Presidential race, I am creating a sort of primer for the relationship between Obama and Rezko over the years. It will only touch on the issues with Rezko and his indictments as related to Obama as I don’t have nearly the time it would take to show Rezko’s involvement with Blagojevich and others.
Chicago Tribune on the 3/14/08 Interview on Rezko:
Obama fleshed out his relationship with Rezko — including the disclosure that Rezko raised as much as $250,000 for the first three offices Obama sought. But Obama’s explanation was less a font of new data or an act of contrition than the addition of nuance and motive to a long-mysterious relationship.
We fully expect the Clinton campaign, given its current desperation, to do whatever it must in order to keep the Rezko tin can tied to Obama’s bumper.
When we endorsed Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination Jan. 27, we said we had formed our opinions of him during 12 years of scrutiny. We concluded that the professional judgment and personal decency with which he has managed himself and his ambition distinguish him.
Nothing Obama said in our editorial board room Friday diminishes that verdict.
We said in that same editorial that Obama had been too self-exculpatory in explaining away his ties to Tony Rezko. And we’ve been saying since Nov. 3, 2006 — shortly after the Tribune broke the story of Obama’s house purchase — that Obama needed to fully explain his Rezko connection. He also needed to realize how susceptible he had been to someone who wanted a piece of him — and how his skill at recognizing that covetousness needed to rise to the same stature as his popular appeal.
Friday’s session evidently fulfills both obligations. Might we all be surprised by some future disclosure? Obama’s critics have waited 16 months for some new and cataclysmic Rezko moment to implicate and doom Obama. It hasn’t happened.
Obama said Friday that voters who don’t know what to make of his Rezko connection should, in the wake of his discussion with the Tribune, “see somebody who is not engaged in any wrongdoing … and who they can trust.” Yes, he said, he comes from Chicago. But he has risen in this corrupt Illinois environment without getting entangled in it.
Obama tries to live by “high ethical standards,” he said. Although “that doesn’t excuse the mistake I made here.”
Obama should have had Friday’s discussion 16 months ago. Asked why he didn’t, he spoke of learning, uncomfortably, what it’s like to live in a fishbowl. That made him perhaps too eager to protect personal information — too eager to “control the narrative.”
Less protection, less control, would have meant less hassle for his campaign. That said, Barack Obama now has spoken about his ties to Tony Rezko in uncommon detail. That’s a standard for candor by which other presidential candidates facing serious inquiries now can be judged.
Chicago Sun-Times on the 3/14/08 Interview on Rezko:
The best synopsis of the Obama Rezko relationship was done by the Trib on January 23rd:
Both men declined to comment on their once-close friendship. Obama has been accused of no wrongdoing involving Rezko and has insisted that he never used his office to benefit Rezko.
Thus far, there is little in the public record to suggest otherwise, and the few exceptions that have come to light appear minor. On Capitol Hill, Obama once gave a summer internship to the son of a Rezko business associate on Rezko’s recommendation. Earlier, as a state senator, Obama was one of several South Side political and community leaders who wrote state and city officials urging approval of public funding for a senior housing project involving Rezko.
But when Rezko pushed for passage in Springfield of a major gambling measure, Obama vocally opposed it.
Obama publicly apologized for his 2005 property deal with Rezko, calling it “boneheaded” because Rezko was widely reported to be under grand jury investigation at the time. And Obama has given to charities $85,000 in Rezko-linked campaign contributions, including $40,035 last weekend following a published report suggesting that Rezko funneled a $10,000 donation to Obama through a business associate. Aides to Obama say the senator had no knowledge of any such scheme.
Rezko is tied to nearly every major politician in Illinois over the last couple decades going back to Jim Edgar under whom he received his first state contract. Rezko’s reputation as a slumlord largely got started after Obama was not practicing law full time and was largely dealt with by the City of Chicago and not state government entities.
It’s fair to say Obama used poor judgment in buying the strip of land from Rezko, but of the many ties to Rezko in Illinois, a two key things stand out:
- Obama did no favors such as providing money from a Member Initiative to Rezko
- Obama did not receive any personal benefits from Rezko
The dumbest thing about the relationship from Obama’s standpoint is that one of the most squeaky clean pols in Illinois didn’t think before buying a 10 foot strip of land for above assessed value from a guy about to be indicted. In Illinois that’s amazing, in the Presidential race, it’s the best personal record of any of the candidates.