JANUARY 30, 2008
Presidential candidate Barack Obama claims to have returned all the tainted money associated with a jailed financial supporter charged with corruption, but the Illinois senator’s figure doesn’t account for more than $50,000.
Indicted for extortion, influence peddling and conspiracy, Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko is a longtime Obama backer who has given the Illinois senator at least $200,000. After being indicted for plotting to squeeze millions of dollars in kickbacks out of firms seeking state business, Obama decided to distance himself from the shady businessman.
Obama reluctantly gave $77,335 that had been donated by Rezko to charity and the senator severed ties with him as his February 25 federal trial approached. Rezko, also a big contributor to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, is also charged with taking $10.5 million from a large company through fraud and swindling of group investors.
As news broke this week that Rezko was arrested and ordered to remain in jail until his trial, Obama decided to return additional contributions that had been made by his imprisoned pal. The Syrian-born Rezko was free on bail and claimed that he was broke but a $3.5 million wire from Beirut led authorities to think he planned to flee to the Middle East.
The news inspired Obama to clear his coffers of all Rezko-related dollars this week. The senator gave an additional $72,650 to charity, brining the total of Rezko dollars that Obama has given away to $149,985. That leaves $50,015 unaccounted for, according to one major newspaper that has followed the story closely.
In a rather unconvincing statement denying that any tainted money was kept, an Obama spokesman said that, by refunding these donations, the campaign has returned any and all funds that could be reasonably credited to Rezko’s political support.
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