Senator Barack Obama appeared on this past Sunday’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. The interview lasted 25.21 minutes and can be viewed at the ABC News website.
We will address at a later date some of Obama’s comments about Iraq. We will also at a later date address his disengenous response regarding statements he made against war funding when he was not in the Senate. Obama disregards his anti-funding statements now that he has actual responsibilities as a Senator. If you want to see this segment of the interview to prepare yourselves for our eventual comments you can find the discussion 6:33 minutes into the interview.
Regardless, what caught our ears were Obama’s answers about his relationship with his now indicted slumlord friend Antoin “Tony” Rezko.
Here is our transcript of the segment which begins 11:24 minutes into the interview:
Stephanopoulos: One of your big issues is ethics reform, but you faced a lot of criticism back home in Chicago about a land deal you entered into with a long time friend and contributor of yours named Rezko. You bought a house, he bought an adjacent plot, the exact same day. Several months later you bought part of the plot back from him. All of that time it was known that he was being investigated for corruption and kickbacks. What were you thinking?
Obama: Well obviously I wasn’t thinking enough. I’m very proud of my ethics record. I mean I was famous in Springfield for not letting lobbyists even buy me lunch. And, so, this is one time where I didn’t see the appearance of impropriety, because I paid full price for the land. There has been no allegations of anything other than that. But it raised the possibility that here was somebody who was a friend of mine who was doing me a favor and I said it was a boneheaded mistake.
Stephanopoulos: How do you explain the blind spot?
Obama: Well, you know, I think that we had bought a house for the first time, and we were trying to figure out how to set the whole thing up and this is somebody that I’d known for some time. It was an above-board legal transaction, I paid more than the price of the property that I purchased, and so the assumption was that this was all above-board. And, the important thing though is to note that in all my conduct there has never been any implications, including in this situation, that I in any way used my office to do favors for people to help folks betray the public trust in any sort of way. And that is something that I am very proud of and that is part of the reason why in this campaign it is so important for me to talk about the need not just to win elections but to change how our politics works.
Simply put, Senator Obama is not being open in his answers. He repeats the argument that the deal was “above-board”. The facts argue otherwise.
Senator Obama might have turned down lunch from lobbyists in Springfield but it is very clear that when it came to hundreds of thousands of dollars he opted for a free lunch.
In our post Obama’s Log Cabin we discussed the charges against Obama regarding the purchase of his $1.65 million home. In that post we examined the rather simple log cabin story. Barack Obama wanted to buy a house he could not afford so he had the owner divide for sale the house from the yard. Obama then asked his slumlord friend to buy the yard at full price. Obama received a discount on the more valuable land with the house on it. The discount was for $300,000.
Add up the Rezko plot ($625,000) and the discount ($300,000) Obama received and that comes to $925,000. That’s quite a few lunches.
Eventually Obama decided to buy some of the yard back for his house from Rezko. The newspapers and television reports indicated that Obama’s slumlord friend was about to be indicted for corruption and kickbacks. Yet, Obama hurried the deal through, ignoring what was obviously a suspicious deal.
The Sun-Times recently exposed the hitherto unknown fact of Obama doing legal work for his slumlord friend Rezko. Obama did this work while his African-American constitutents were freezing without heat in tenements Rezko owned. Obama also had through his legal work aided slumlord Rezko obtain government subsidies for Rezko tenements. Did Obama participate, as an associate at the law firm, in any due diligence (legal investigations of business) of Rezko deals? Did that due diligence reveal Rezko to be a slumlord to his good friend and financial beneficiary Obama? At the time Obama was a state senator and presumably would get complaints from heatless tenement dwellers in his district. Obama pleads ignorance about the suffering of his consitutents. State Senator Obama should have known.
Obama needs to clarify this situation completely. Obama needs to start cooperating fully with the Chicago Sun-Times which has been trying to get answers from Obama and the law firm he worked for. The Chicago Sun-Times is being stonewalled. We have written about how the Illinois Office of U.S. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is going to trial against Rezko in February 2008. The trial will receive a great deal of media attention which will call into question Obama’s ethics and/or judgement.
Obama owes complete and honest answers regarding Rezko to all Democrats and especially to his supporters well before the primaries. The presidential election is not a contest against Alan Keyes. Republicans will be relentless in pursuing these questions. The Chicago Sun-Times will continue to be relentless. Obama must relent and answer all questions fully and honestly.