While pundits still ponder what could possibly have motivated Obama to pick Biden as his running mate, maybe it’s as simple as former fundraiser they shared in common: Tony Rezko, who earlier this year was convicted on 16 corruption-related felony charges.
Obama, it turns out, had more ties with Rezko than we’ve been previously led to believe. Back when Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review his name made the local papers. That caught the eye of David Brint, a vice president at Tony Rezko’s company, Rezmar.
“I just cold-called him,” Brint said in an interview.
Brint said he wanted to know if Obama would come work for Rezmar, developing housing for the poor — something Obama had expressed interest in, according to the story Brint had read. Brint arranged for Obama to meet Rezko, but Obama didn’t take the job.
Obama, who has a law degree from Harvard, subsequently returned to Chicago to lead a voter-registration drive in 1992.
The next year, Obama joined Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland, a 12-lawyer firm that specialized in helping develop low-income housing. The firm’s top partner, Allison S. Davis, was, and is, a member of the Chicago Plan Commission, appointed by Mayor Daley. Davis was also a friend of Rezko. Davis and Rezko would eventually go into business together, developing homes.
As an attorney, Obama worked for Davis’ small Chicago firm, Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland. They represented Tony Rezko’s company, Rezmar and helped Rezko’s company obtain more than $43 million in government funding to rehab homes for the poor. Four years later, residents in many of those buildings spent five weeks shivering in the dead of winter because Rezko’s company didn’t pay the heating bill.
It was Rezko who organized Obama fundraisers in his own home, although the candidate can’t recall the precise amounts generated. Now, though, Obama claims he and his wife only socialized with the Rezkos “two or three times a year” and weren’t very close, but Obama asked Tony Rezko to tour his home before buying the place in 2005 because he wanted Rezko’s opinion. And, of course, it was Rezko’s wife who bought the lot next to the Obama’s house when they couldn’t afford to do so, then later sold a strip of it to Obama for well over market value. (That was, of course, before Rezko was convicted for kickback schemes.)
Likewise, although Obama claims he never did Rezko any favors, nine years ago Obama wrote a series of letters on Rezko’s behalf to obtain financing for one of Rezko’s real estate schemes.
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 letters, written nearly nine years ago, for the first time show the Democratic presidential hopeful did a political favor for Rezko — a longtime friend, campaign fund-raiser and client of the law firm where Obama worked — who was indicted last fall on federal charges that accuse him of demanding kickbacks from companies seeking state business under Gov. Blagojevich.
(Obama’s campaign has since claimed his letters weren’t intended as a favor to Rezko but, rather, for the community of Chicago.)
Now Biden turns out to have ties to Rezko, too, through Joe Cari, a longtime Rezko associate. Biden’s long-time advisor and friend of 30 years, Joseph Cari, helped Biden with his presidential runs both earlier this year and in 1988. He’s also a financial contributor to Biden’s campaign.
Investigated as part of the Rezko probe, Cari was indicted in 2005 although he later cut a deal with federal prosecutors under which he pled guilty to extortion in exchange for other charges being dropped. As part of the deal, Cari admitted to helping a Rezko associate make telephone calls as part of one of the kickback schemes for which Rezko was later convicted. Cari’s sentencing has been delayed while he cooperates with the investigation. (Rezko’s sentencing is scheduled for October.)
Cari’s ties extend to Obama as well, having served as a “top-level Democratic operative” and “money man” as Obama transitioned from state to U.S. Senator. Cari was also Biden’s “Midwest field director” prior to pleading guilty to participation in an $850,000 kickback scheme overseen by, you guessed it, Rezko.
For a ticket running on a platform of change and reform, the Obama-Biden camp certainly seems determined to continue playing Chicago-style politics.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden: sure, they may have some experience, but is it the honest kind?