02 October 2008

Rumor Central: Tony Rezko

You might recall one Antoin Rezko, a Chicago real estate developer, restaurant owner, and political fundraiser. Rezko has been found guilty of fraud, and he awaits sentencing later this month. Although Rezko's name was repeatedly referenced throughout the primary season, expect a renewed emphasis on his links to Senator Obama by people opposed to Obama's presidential run. Both Fact Check and Politifact have reviewed the men’s relationship, and both conclude that there is no evidence linking Senator Obama to any impropriety.

In brief, and from FactCheck's article on Rezko:

Obama has a relationship with Rezko that dates back many years, but there’s no indication Obama did anything improper. Shortly after finishing law school, Obama, who had turned down a job offer from the developer, went to work at a law firm where he represented some community groups that partnered with Rezko to apply for housing rehabilitation loans. As a state legislator, he wrote letters to city and state officials in support of Rezko’s efforts to build apartments for the elderly with government money; the senator asserts that this was a project the community wanted. Obama got together with Rezko a couple of times a year, he has said.

Obama has donated campaign contributions from Rezko and his associates to charity, and he said in 2006, when the real estate transaction was reported by the press, that he made a “boneheaded” mistake by participating in the deal when it was known that Rezko was being investigated. “I regret it,” Obama said. “I’m going to make sure from this point on I don’t even come close to the line.”

It seems that most people have been satisfied with Obama's response, but some are eager to introduce doubt into the electorate. In the past two or three days, rumors have cropped up that the recently jailed Rezko will shortly provide information to federal investigators that could lead to an indictment of Obama. Rezko does appear to be speaking with the feds, but the Obama involvement seems a stretch. First, Rezko’s attorney asserts:

“'I'm not aware of any impropriety related to Rezko and Obama [. . . .] At no point has the government ever asked me a single question about Obama, or any wrongdoing involving Rezko and Obama,' (Washington Post).
Second, the investigation appears to target Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and his wife.

Aside: more FactCheck. This article focuses on a McCain Campaign ad that alleges that Rezko received a “14 million dollar favor” from Obama. The allegations are provably untrue.

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