Sunday, November 2, 2008

Campaign 08: Obama to Pardon Rezko?

A Wall Street Journal article here reviews recent event in Chicago, as they relate to a convicted felon and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. The piece notes Tony Rezko, recently convicted on 16 counts of influence peddling, is "one of the first Obama political boosters." He also faces trial in Chicago for a $10 million in business fraud and in Nevada for unpaid casino-gambling debts. Says the Journal:

The Democratic candidate met the Syrian-born businessman in his final year at Harvard Law School, and they stayed on friendly terms in the next two decades. When Mr. Obama started his run for the state Senate in 1995, Mr. Rezko gave him $2,000 on the first day of the campaign. The Illinois Senator says his political career didn't start in Bill Ayers's living room, but the Rezko wallet certainly launched him on his way. Over the next decade, Mr. Rezko raised as much as $250,000 for him and served on the Obama Senate campaign finance committee in 2004.

A year after his election, Mr. Obama bought his home in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood with Mr. Rezko's help. At the time, he was the subject of a (then rumored) federal investigation. The men together looked at a house listed at $1.95 million. The seller insisted an adjoining lot must be sold simultaneously, though it was bound by a restrictive covenant that severely limited what the purchaser could do with the lot.

Nevertheless, on the same day that the Obamas offered $1.65 million -- the highest bid on the property -- Mr. Rezko's wife put in for the lot at the listed price of $625,000. (Mrs. Rezko earned $37,000 a year at the time and had assets of $35,000.) In 2006, Mrs. Rezko sold a 10 foot wide strip of her property to Mr. Obama for $112,000 to expand his garden. He paid nearly double the assessed value, but the sale made the Rezko lot less attractive to develop.

As Mr. Obama considered a Presidential run, he gave $159,000 in past donations traceable to Mr. Rezko to charity, and he called the house purchase "boneheaded" and "a mistake in not seeing the potential conflicts of interest or appearances of impropriety." Speaking of Mr. Rezko earlier this year to the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Obama said, "He hadn't asked me for favors." Mr. Rezko hasn't yet told his side of the story. Following his conviction this summer, Mr. Obama said, "This isn't the Tony Rezko I knew." The Senator said the same about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, after his longtime pastor's "God D--- America" YouTube turn this spring.

Obama has explicitly pledged he wouldn't dismiss Mr. Fitzgerald. But the Journal notes that does not mean that he (Fitzgerald) will not be "promoted" out of Chicago. And, the Journal asks whether or not Obama will "rule out a pardon for Tony Rezko?" See full article here.

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