Last Sunday Barack Obama appeared on This Week. His appearance was such a disaster we wrote 2 articles about it. The first article which we want to update was called Obama’s $925,000 Question. We thought it was a tough realistic piece about Obama’s dubious ethical judgements when he bought his house with the assistance of his slumlord friend Antoin “Tony” Rezko. As it turns out we were too gullible. Obama was less forthright than even we thought.
In Obama’s $925,000 Question we pointed out that Obama wanted to buy a house he could not afford (See the Chicago Tribune article Rezko Owns Vacant Lot Next To Obama’s Home). Lack of money did not prevent Obama from obtaining the house. Obama simply went to his slumlord friend Rezko and got the slumlord friend to purchase part of the property. Obama obtained the valuable property with a $1.65 million dollar house on it for a discount of $300,000. Obama’s slumlord friend paid full price for a yard full of grass. At the time the slumlord friend was reported to be under investigation for corruption and kickbacks.
[We want to also note that both properties were originally 1 property. This very clear fact is constantly missed. Obama went to the sellers and asked them to split the property in 2 so he could buy the house at a discount and Obama’s slumlord friend Rezko would buy the yard for full price. In the words of the Chicago Tribune, “The same day the Obamas closed on the house, the Rezkos closed on the purchase of the adjoining vacant lot, which once was the estate’s lush side yard.”]
The Chicago Sun-Times added an additional piece of evidence this past week in an article entitled Rezko Question Dogs Obama.
Here is our transcript of the This Week interview with Obama. We transcribed the relevant 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.
We pointed out earlier the many problems with Obama’s answers in this interview. Lynn Sweet, of the Chicago Sun-Times adds this:
“Well said, except that this was not the first time Obama went through the process of buying a residence. Obama and his wife bought a condominium in Hyde Park before purchasing their mansion in Kenwood. Perhaps Obama was making a distinction between buying a condo and a stand-alone home. But Obama was not the first-time residential purchaser he portrayed in the interview.”
Lynn Sweet is correct. Obama continues to sell himself as an innocent but the facts are quite different. Not only was this not Obama’s first real estate transaction but let’s remember that Michelle Obama was hardly an inexperienced real estate novice. Michelle Obama after all served for 7 years on the Landmark Commission (1998-2005). Michelle Obama used those Landmark Commission contacts to navigate through Chicago law when the Obamas decided to build a fence.
Furthermore, let’s recall that Obama was a real estate attorney. Obama tried to hide that fact but the Sun-Times had the proof:
“Davis said he didn’t remember Obama working on the Rezmar projects. “I don’t recall Barack having any involvement in real estate transactions,” Davis said. “Barack was a litigator. His area of focus was litigation, class-action suits.”
But Obama did legal work on real estate deals while at Davis’ firm, according to biographical information he submitted to the Sun-Times in 1998. Obama specialized “in civil rights litigation, real estate financing, acquisition, construction and/or redevelopment of low-and moderate income housing,” according to his “biographical sketch.” And he did legal work on Rezko’s deals, according to an e-mail his presidential campaign staff sent the Sun-Times on Feb. 16, in response to earlier inquiries. The staff didn’t specify which Rezmar projects Obama worked on, or his role. But it drew a distinction between working for Rezko and working on projects involving his company.”
The Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune have raised many questions and obtained many disturbing answers. We would like to have some light shed on why Obama purchased the 10 yards of property from slumlord friend Antoin “Tony” Rezko at a time when news reports indicated that Rezko would soon be indicted. Was “Tony” Rezko in need of financing for a project or legal expenses and therefore Obama bailed him out? We are sure that the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune will keep digging.
Lynn Sweet also wrote a bit about Obama’s lobbyist answer. Here is what she wrote:
“However, Obama had a healthy appetite for money from lobbyists and political action committees while a state senator. Just looking at one of his state senate campaign cycles, in 2001-2002, Obama’s state war chest accepted donations from, among other sources, the Manufacturers PAC; the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association; the Illinois Education Association; the Illinois Hospital Association, and the Credit Union PAC. A good place to check out Obama’s campaign contribution record as a state senator is www.ilcampaign.org.
Obama also used lobbyists and PACs to help him raise money for his U.S. Senate run and his Hopefund. Obama experienced a conversion once he decided to run for the White House, changing his policy and declining to take money from currently registered federal lobbyists and PACs. He does take contributions from lobbyists with state clients and from individuals with government affairs jobs.”
Glenn Thrush of Newsday earlier wrote about Obama’s lobbyist ties:
“Barack Obama has backhandedly slapped Hillary Rodham Clinton for accepting contributions from lobbyists and PACs, eschewing cash from both groups because he doesn’t want to be beholden to special interests. So it was with great interest that we read in the Boston Globe that BHO has enlisted New Hampshire lobbyist Jim Demers (who represents trial lawyers, firefighters and a major video poker/slot machine vendor, according to his firm’s Website) to be one of his New Hamsphire co-chairs.
Demers has already helped Obama organize events in the Granite State and has helped establish his organization.
In April, Obama refunded about $50,000 in lobbyist contributions. It’s not clear if Demers’ $2,300 was among the refunds. (His name isn’t on Obama’s refunds list because the campaign is only rejecting cash from federal lobbyists — an interesting ethical hair-split).
Even if he refunded Demers’ check – and we have no reason to believe Demers has anything but the purest motives for joining the campaign — the hiring raises questions. What good is returning a few grand from a lobbyist if that lobbyist is going to have unfettered access to the candidate as a volunteer? “
Obama must stop fighting the facts. Obama must start to disclose fully what his connections are to Rezko, how much actual legal work he did for Rezko, why he purchased land from an about to be indicted slumlord, how he worked the deal to divide the property his house was on, and why his constituents were freezing without heat and Obama did nothing to protect them from his slumlord friend. Facts are stubborn things. Facts do not go away. It’s time to face the facts.