The Chicago Collector

“Antoin Rezko, an entrepreneur of considerable charm who found riches in fast food and real estate, is known around Chicago as a collector of politicians.”

Thus begins the New York Times first timid toe dipping into the Obama-Rezko scandal waters. We wrote yesterday that

David Axelrod, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama must reconsider their stonewalling of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. Guys, the story is not going away. The Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, two very big newspapers, know they have a big Pulitzer story here and they will keep on digging and digging and digging until the shovels hit the coffin.”

Yesterday, Wolf Blitzer on CNN reported on the story and today the New York Times has joined in. The smell is spreading.

“Back in the 1990s, Mr. Rezko’s office was adorned with framed photos of candidates he viewed as up-and-comers. Among them was Barack Obama, a state legislator whose first campaign donations included $2,000 from Mr. Rezko’s companies. As Mr. Obama built a career that carried him to the Senate in 2004, Mr. Rezko was there with him, holding fund-raisers and rallying support.”

“Now, as Mr. Obama runs for president, the once-beneficial relationship with his old friend and patron has become problematic.”

Instead of answering questions Barack and Michelle Obama are hiding from the press. Guys, this will not work. Big Media is setting you up for a big fall in the fall. Answer the questions fully now.

“Mr. Obama says he never did any favors for Mr. Rezko, who raised about $150,000 for his campaigns over the years and was once one of the most powerful men in Illinois. There is no sign that Mr. Obama, who declined to be interviewed for this article, did anything improper.

Mr. Obama has portrayed Mr. Rezko as a one-time fund-raiser whom he had occasionally seen socially. But interviews with more than a dozen political and business associates suggest that the two men were closer than the senator has indicated.”

The New York Times recaps some of the Obama-Rezko financial entanglements too:

“Mr. Obama turned to Mr. Rezko for help at several important junctures. Records show that when Mr. Obama needed cash in the waning days of his losing 2000 Congressional campaign, Mr. Rezko rounded up thousands of dollars from business contacts. In 2003, Mr. Rezko helped Mr. Obama expand his fund-raising for the Senate primary by being host of a dinner at his Mediterranean-style home for 150 people, including some whose names have since come up in the influence scandal.”

“And when Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, bought a house in 2005, Mr. Rezko stepped in again. Even though his finances were deteriorating, Mr. Rezko arranged for his wife to buy an adjacent lot, and she later sold the Obamas a 10-foot-wide strip of land that expanded their yard.”

The land sale occurred after it had been reported that Mr. Rezko was under federal investigation. That awkward fact prompted Mr. Obama, who has cast himself as largely free from the normal influences of politics, to express regret over what he called his own bad judgment.”

Political finance watchdogs will soon start digging too,

“Senator Obama is a very intelligent man, and everyone by then was very familiar with who Tony Rezko was,” said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a nonpartisan research group. “So it was a little stunning that so late in the game Senator Obama would still have such close involvement with Rezko.”

The New York Times also explores the Obama-Rezko house deal which we have written about. The New York Times does not understand that in fact the house and yard were originally one parcel of land until Obama asked the owners to split the yard from the house. It appears Obama gained $925,000 from this transaction and was able to get the house he could not afford.

“By 2004, Mr. Rezko’s pizza restaurants were in trouble, and creditors were suing him. Yet after the Obamas bid $1.65 million for their house in January 2005, Mr. Rezko got involved. Mr. Obama has said that he mentioned the deal to Mr. Rezko.”

“People familiar with the transaction said that the sellers did not want to close until that June 15, and that the sale would go through only if someone bought the adjacent lot from them on the same date. Rita Rezko paid $625,000 to outbid others for the lot and later sold the Obamas one-sixth of that land, for $104,500.”

We have written about this story many times before. As long as Obama does not answer the questions he must answer, that all presidential candidates must answer, we fear we will be writing about this again. We wrote in Turning Pages Part II that this story is growing. Obama must stop turning pages and answer questions.


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