The Senator From Rezko, Part II

DCDemocrat commented on The Senator From Rezko, Part I. Here is what he wrote:

“I am on the road for business. While I was driving, I was flipping around the radio stations. I found a talk radio show and listened briefly. The commentator was talking about this problem Obama has with Rezko. He was quite agitated about it. I was puzzled and surprised that the host was sitting in for Rush Limbaugh. I am not quite sure what it means that they’re talking about this in Limbaugh World, but I am struck that the story has legs. I am fairly certain that Hillary will win the nomination, but this Rezko story would cause us a great deal of trouble were Obama to get the nod.”

DCDemocrat, imprisoned in his car, was subjected to what many Americans not living on the coasts are subjected to – Ripublican talk radio. You can be assured that Obama’s financial entanglements with his indicted slumlord friend, Antoin “Tony” Rezko, will soon be the only drumbeat heard in long stretches of Ohio, Pennsylvania and the many other states where Ripublican talk radio monopolizes the public airwaves. Obama after all, is the Democrats (see the Chicago Tribune editorial below) “point man” on ethics. Again, David Axelrod, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama – this story is not going away – come clean and explain the Obama financial entanglements with Rezko before next year’s February trial. Otherwise, the media circus Rezko trial, in Patrick Fitzgerald’s jurisdiction will explain this all for you, in a bad way, and tar all Democrats. [The Tribune editorial below also indicates the Rezko investigation is expanding.]

Understand, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times are not going to be satisfied with sweet talk and smooth words. They want facts. They want facts about how Obama and Rezko paid for Obama’s house. They want facts about the legal work Obama did for Rezko and his slum tenements. They want facts about why Obama cared more about Rezko and his multi-million dollar government subsidies than about his senate district constitutents freezing in the Rezko tenements.

The more they dig to find answers the Obama campaign is stonewalling on, the more they will write about regarding Obama’s unsavory Chicago history. The Chicago Tribune published Critics: Obama Endorsements Counter Calls For Clean Government. Here are some excerpts and note the Todd Stroger angle:

“There was little controversy earlier this year when Sen. Barack Obama endorsed Mayor Richard Daley over two black opponents for a sixth term, lending his star power to an inevitable rout.”

“But Obama’s record of local endorsements — one measure of how he has used his nascent political clout — has drawn criticism from those who say it reflects his deference to Chicago’s established political order and runs counter to his public calls for clean government.”

“In the 2006 Democratic primary, for example, Obama endorsed first-time candidate Alexi Giannoulias for state treasurer despite reports about loans Giannoulias’ family-owned Broadway Bank made to crime figures. Records show Giannoulias and his family had given more than $10,000 to Obama’s campaign, which banked at Broadway.”

“Obama endorsed former Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd), calling her “a very early supporter of my campaign.” Tillman was then under fire for her stewardship of the scandal-plagued Harold Washington Cultural Center, where contracts benefited members of her family.”

and

“Obama supported the re-election of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose administration is embroiled in corruption probes.”

“And during the race for Cook County Board president, Obama predictably endorsed Todd Stroger over a Republican. But he was criticized for calling Stroger “a good progressive” despite allegations of job-rigging to favor members of Stroger’s 8th Ward organization.”

[We digress for a moment to discuss Todd Stroger. Here is an editorial about Obama’s “good progressive” Todd Stroger from today’s Chicago Tribune:

Did Todd Stroger, candidate for president of the Cook County Board, have an obligation last summer to tell voters he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer? In our view the answer is no — unless, of course, he wanted the many citizens who had learned to doubt his word and his motives to begin trusting him.

The relevant history here reaches back farther, to March 2006. That’s when Todd Stroger helped weave the web of lies by which the Democratic machine deceived voters. The pols hid the fact that a stroke had devastated his father, John Stroger. That greased the skids for Todd to take his dad’s job. It was shabby exploitation of John Stroger by a party he helped build.

That serial dishonesty invited still more public distrust after Todd Stroger took office. Many citizens watched him cut health workers — but not enough of the patronage hacks in his administration — while larding the county payroll with even more of his friends and family members.

It’s too soon to say with certainty that Todd Stroger will go down as an amateurish one-termer. But his choice of secrecy over candor reminds voters that … it’s all about him, not them.

(snip)

Last summer, Stroger had a chance at a teaching moment. He could have spoken publicly about his encounter with a disease that strikes many men, African-Americans in particular. He could have talked about the treatment he would undergo. He could have explained his prognosis for a quick recovery and a long life. In sum, he could have frankly shared his predicament — not to chum up to his fellow citizens but to highlight the lifesaving importance of medical screening. His handlers say he will do that now. But the moment for candor has passed. He squandered it.

Todd Stroger’s health is in good hands. But he still suffers from anemic public trust. The treatment was obvious, the patient disinterested.

Lovely Chicago friends Obama has.]

Sadly, the above is not the only Obama related Chicago Tribune editorial of late. Here is another one from this past Sunday called The Drip, Drip, Drip on Obama:

Some practitioners in politics, law enforcement and journalism call it “scrubbing”: the process of examining someone’s past in search of illegalities, or serious embarrassments, or innocent but peculiar actions that will be difficult to explain. In high-profile campaigns, every candidate’s staff scrubs opponents’ background. A smart staff scrubs its own candidate first. That allows him or her to disclose — and, with luck, put to rest — potential problems early.

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama is being scrubbed as he never has before. His prior campaigns were for lower offices. And in his 2004 U.S. Senate race, attention focused less on him than on primary and general election opponents who had their own serious problems.

But this campaign cycle’s scrubbing of Obama leads to another water analogy: News stories that raise ethics questions about his relationship with indicted dealmaker Antoin “Tony” Rezko have become a steady drip, drip, drip.

Obama needs to divulge all there is to know about that relationship. Until he does, the scrubbing likely will intensify as more news organizations — and, you can bet, rival candidates — explore Obama’s Rezko connection.

Obama indirectly asked for this scrutiny in January 2006, when he let then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) exploit his pristine reputation. With Republicans ensnared in Capitol Hill scandals, Reid named Obama the Democrats’ point man on ethics proposals in Congress.

None of the press disclosures thus far about Obama implies any wrongdoing on his part. Taken together, though, they suggest that Obama, and his campaign, have been carelessly self-exculpatory in some of their responses to inquiries about decisions Obama previously has made. This early in a presidential cycle, some of that can be written off to first-time amateurism. But that excuse will evaporate if press coverage escalates — even as the U.S. Justice Department pursues its aggressive case against Rezko.

Back on Nov. 3, this page carried two sentences summing up the need for Obama to fully and quickly explain his connections to Rezko: “One fulcrum on which Obama’s future tips may well be the speed with which he acknowledges how susceptible he has been to people who want a piece of him — and how his skill at recognizing that covetousness needs to rise to the same stature as his popular appeal. At a time when others are fiercely tempted to judge him, Obama has courted unkind judgment.”

Those words are no less true today. Consider:

* That editorial appeared shortly after the Tribune reported Rezko’s involvement in Obama’s purchase of his Hyde Park home. That transaction occurred after it was common knowledge in Chicago that Rezko was the subject of a federal investigation. After that disclosure, Obama distanced himself from Rezko and said he had made a mistake in judgment.

* On June 8, the Tribune reported that Obama was giving charities some $16,500 in campaign donations from two Chicago businessmen who had financial ties to Rezko. A spokesman for Obama offered no details about Obama’s relationship with the contributors. The story said this marked the fourth time that Obama’s campaign has shed contributions made by Rezko and associates to Obama’s campaigns — contributions totaling more than $33,000.

* On June 13, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that as a state senator, Obama wrote letters to city and state officials supporting Rezko’s successful bid to get more than $14 million from taxpayers to build apartments for senior citizens. The Sun-Times said the deal included $855,000 in development fees for Rezko and his partner, Allison S. Davis, Obama’s former boss, according to records from the project, which was four blocks outside Obama’s state Senate district. Obama’s campaign responded that Obama’s letters weren’t intended as a favor for Rezko or Davis, but rather in the interest of the people in the community who have benefited from the project. An attorney for Rezko, who has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of influence peddling and bank fraud, told the newspaper that Rezko never sought a letter from Obama in connection with the project.

* On June 14, The New York Times weighed in with a front-page story on the Obama-Rezko relationship. The story reported that Rezko “is known around Chicago as a collector of politicians” and added: “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 story didn’t break much new ground. But its appearance on the front page of the Times elevated the Obama-Rezko relationship to new and, for Obama’s campaign, uncomfortable heights.

* On Monday, the Sun-Times reported that during his 12 years in politics, Obama has received nearly three times as much campaign cash from Rezko and his associates as he has acknowledged. “Obama has collected at least $168,308 from Rezko and his circle,” the newspaper reported. “Obama also has taken in an unknown amount of money from people who attended fund-raising events hosted by Rezko since the mid-1990s.” Seven months ago, Obama told the paper his best estimate was that Rezko had raised “between $50,000 and $60,000” for him during his career.

Obama got where he is in part by avoiding the Illinois culture of political sleaze that devours so many promising careers. Our experience tells us that he has behaved with uncommon integrity. But our experience also tells us the drip, drip, drip of articles about his relationship with Rezko will continue until he frees his campaign from having to respond defensively to this level of scrutiny at so many turns.

Barack Obama and his campaign aides need to divulge the findings of their own scrubbing of the candidate. Better to disclose every dimension of Obama’s ties to the indicted, increasingly notorious businessman and be done with it.

Obama must come clean before he muddies all Democrats.

Part III of The Senator From Rezko – coming soon.

Share