Bumped and updated: Obama is trying to distance himself from Rezko by divesting himself (again) of tainted money.
Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama said Saturday that his campaign would give charities $40,350 in donations linked to his former friend and fundraiser Tony Rezko, a Chicago businessman who has pleaded not guilty to federal influence-peddling and bank fraud charges.
Obama already has divested more than $44,000 in Rezko-affiliated donations during the last year. But Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said the campaign made a comprehensive review of donations affiliated with Rezko and "found some we'd feel more comfortable not having."
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Obama Revealed in Rezko Corruption Investigation
Originally published: Jan 19, 08 01:00 PM
The Chicago Sun-Times released a scathing article this morning titled "Obama surfaces in Rekzo's federal corruption case" which for the first time ties Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama into a federal corruption investigation of Obama's longtime supporter and fundraiser Tony Rezko.
The allegations against Rezko that involve Obama are contained in one paragraph of a 78-page document filed last month in which prosecutors outline their corruption and fraud case against Rezko, who was also a key money man for Gov. Blagojevich and other politicians.
Rezko is set to go to trial
Feb. 25[and has been rescheduled to start March 3]. The revelation that Obama's name could come up in court is a political headache he doesn't need as he heads into a round of primaries that are likely to determine his party's nomination for president.
Obama is not named in the Dec. 21 court document. But a source familiar with the case confirmed that Obama is the unnamed "political candidate" referred to in a section of the document that accuses Rezko of orchestrating a scheme in which a firm hired to handle state teacher pension investments first had to pay $250,000 in "sham" finder's fees. From that money, $10,000 was donated to Obama's successful run for the Senate in the name of a Rezko business associate, according to the court filing and the source.
Rezko, who was part of Obama's senatorial finance committee, also is accused of directing "at least one other individual" to donate money to Obama and then reimbursing that individual -- in possible violation of federal election law.
If you aren't familiar with Obama's other ties with Rezko not to worry, there's lots of information out there, including favors extended to Obama by Rezko surrounding the Obama purchase of Illinois real estate.
In June 2005, Obama and Rezko purchased adjoining parcels in Kenwood. The state's junior senator paid $1.65 million for a Georgian revival mansion, while Rezko paid $625,000 for the adjacent, undeveloped lot. Both closed on their properties on the same day.
Obama's dealings with Rezko buy a parcel of questions Sweet blog: '08 hopeful in Iowa again. State worker puts up home for Rezko bail Blagojevich: I don't recall Rezko list
Last January, aiming to increase the size of his sideyard, Obama paid Rezko $104,500 for a strip of his land.
The transaction occurred at a time when it was widely known Tony Rezko was under investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and as other Illinois politicians befriended by Rezko distanced themselves from him.
In the Sun-Times interview, Obama acknowledged approaching Rezko about the two properties being up for sale and that Rezko developed an immediate interest. Obama did not explain why he reached out to Rezko given the developer's growing problems.
Last month, Rezko was indicted for his role in an alleged pay-to-play scheme designed to fatten Gov. Blagojevich's political fund. Rezko also was accused of bilking a creditor.
But there's more. Here's another skeleton in the Obama closet, this from December, 2006:
In addition to a land deal, Sen. Barack Obama's ties to indicted dealmaker Antoin "Tony" Rezko include an internship the senator provided the son of a contributor at the request of Rezko, an Obama spokesman confirmed today.
John Aramanda served as an intern for Obama for about a month in 2005, said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. His father is Joseph Aramanda, a Rezko business associate who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal corruption case against Rezko. Aramanda has contributed $11,500 to Obama since 2000, Gibbs said.
"Mr. Rezko did provide a recommendation for John Aramanda," Gibbs said. "I think that it's fairly obvious that a few-week internship is not of anything of benefit to Mr. Rezko or any of his businesses."
The revelation of the internship comes after Obama acknowledged a mistake in buying property from Rezko in January 2006 -- a deal that enlarged the senator's yard in the Kenwood neighborhood on the South Side. The transaction occurred at a time when it was widely known Rezko was under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office.
"It was a mistake to have been engaged with him at all in this or any other personal business dealing that would allow him, or anyone else, to believe that he had done me a favor," Obama -- a likely presidential candidate -- told the Sun-Times in November.
Money... politics... and favors. Some things never change.
Related: "Obama Supporters Spin Harder as Nevada Caucus Begins" - link.
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