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Corruption Chronicles

Close Obama Friend, Advisor Under Federal Probe

In the latest scandal to rock the Obama Administration, a close friend, advisor and donor of the president’s is under federal investigation for misusing public funds on faith-based minority outreach programs while he ran Illinois’ health department.

Under the direction of Dr. Eric Whitaker, the state spent millions of taxpayer dollars on highly questionable publicity campaigns to educate African-American and other minorities about common diseases in their communities, mainly AIDS. Whitaker was the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health from 2003 to 2007, thanks to a recommendation from his good friend Obama who at the time was a state senator.

The federal probe into Whitaker’s minority health programs has been kept secret by the Obama Administration but a Chicago newspaper revealed details after obtaining records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Federal grand jury subpoenas obtained by the newspaper disclose that the investigation involves “faith-based initiatives” and health-awareness campaigns funded by the Health Department when Whitaker ran the agency for criminally indicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Among the subpoenaed are Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS for running a taxpayer-funded $2.5 million “social marketing effort” to fight AIDS in the African-American community and a defunct nonprofit that got nearly $2 million to conduct AIDS awareness. The Chicago chapter of the National Black Nurses’ Association, which received $905,000, is also being probed and Whitaker’s electronic mails and other records have been subpoenaed.

Whitaker defends his work at the health department, claiming that he developed “new methods” to help minorities get better medical care. He says the faith-based outreach programs under scrutiny have been nationally recognized as models for increasing awareness and preparedness planning for minority populations.

A member of Obama’s tight-knit circle of friends from Chicago’s Hyde Park, Whitaker resigned as Illinois health chief in 2007 to join Michelle Obama as an executive at the University of Chicago. He was a fixture in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and was considered a valued advisor who also helped the then-senator relieve stress with pickup basketball games during campaign stops. Whitaker and Obama have remained close since meeting during graduate school at Harvard and the doctor has donated money to the politician’s campaigns.

 


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