JANUARY 23, 2008
The upcoming federal corruption trial of presidential candidate Barack Obama’s longtime friend and financial supporter is sure to undermine the Illinois senator’s self-promoted, squeaky-clean image of exceptionally high ethical standards and claims of never being influenced by special interests.
In fact, timing couldn’t be worst for the Democratic presidential candidate who has repeatedly downplayed his ties to the renowned Chicago businessman (Antoin Rezko) scheduled to be tried February 25 on federal charges of extortion, influence peddling and conspiracy.
Rezko has been indicted with plotting to squeeze millions of dollars in kickbacks out of investment firms seeking state business and for obtaining $10.5 million from a large company through fraud and swindling a group of investors. Prosecutors also say Rezko provided hefty donations to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions.
No wonder Obama would rather erase his lengthy relationship with Rezko, a longtime loyal supporter. In fact, the senator recently returned $85,000 in contributions. Problem is Obama’s close ties to Rezko have been clearly documented over the years, including the fact that Rezko has basically bankrolled Obama’s political career from the day he first sought public office in 1995.
This week a major newspaper analyzed the powerful Obama-Rezko connection that the presidential candidate and his staff have worked so diligently to minimize, documenting how the indicted businessman, his employees and business associates have fueled Obama’s rapid ascent in Illinois and national politics.
Rezko and his clan have given Obama more than $200,000 in donations and Rezko even hosted a lavish fundraiser at his mansion, featuring an open sushi bar, in 2003 when Obama launched his bid for the U.S. Senate. A few years later the men entered into a controversial real estate deal that Obama later admitted was a regrettable mistake.
The senator paid Rezko for a portion of a lot adjacent to a $1.65 million home he purchased in 2005 for $300,000 below the asking price. The idea, according to Obama, was to create more space between the house and other lot, which happened to be owned by Rezko and his wife. Good friends and neighbors, how cozy.
Yet, Obama continues to pretend that he hardly knows the crooked businessman that has proven to be his most loyal and generous supporter. Somehow, the act itself is what takes away from the senator’s imaginary squeaky clean portrait.
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