Rezko helped bankroll Obama in five election runs — for the state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. The savvy businessman with the North Shore mansion could bring in as much as $70,000 from political donors in one night. In the heat of a campaign, Obama said he sometimes talked strategy with Rezko daily.
Then, during political down-times, Rezko was his lunch or breakfast companion, more concerned about Obama, his wife and daughters than with posing for snapshots with the senator as he rose from political obscurity to Democratic presidential hopeful. On one occasion, Obama recalled, they wiled away time with their wives at Rezko’s Lake Geneva estate.
This portrait of Rezko emerged during an 80-minute interview Friday with the Chicago Sun-Times that marked the first time the senator has spoken in-depth about his relationship with the indicted businessman, who’s on trial on corruption charges involving allegations he orchestrated political kickback schemes in the Blagojevich administration.
The interview followed months in which Obama had avoided questions about Rezko and tried to downplay their relationship. With the Pennsylvania primary looming in five weeks, Obama said he hoped to clear the air about his ties to Rezko.
During the interview, Obama acknowledged Rezko had raised at least $250,000 for him before he was indicted in October, 2006. That's much more than Obama had earlier acknowledged. "Obama acknowledged that Rezko had raised $250,000 for him — about $100,000 more than had previously been disclosed and about five times more than Obama conveyed during a November 2006 question-and-answer exchange with the Sun-Times," the Sun-Times reports.
Earlier, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was accused of taking a cheap shot at Obama when she suggested Obama was busy doing legal work for his sleazy slumlord friend in reference to Rezko when she was working on higher endeavors. Clinton said, "I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago." To wit, Obama responded: "Here's what happened: I was an associate at a law firm that represented a church group that had partnered with this individual to do a project and I did about five hours worth of work on this joint project. That's what she's referring to." The Sun-Times now reports this:
Obama also defended signing a 1998 letter urging the state to fund a low-income housing project developed by Rezko and Obama’s former boss, Allison Davis — both of whom were clients of Obama’s law firm as well as campaign contributors. Obama said he didn’t remember writing the “form letter” until the Sun-Times asked about it last June. This was not one of the Rezko developments that fell into disrepair . . .
Obama picked Rezko for the campaign finance committee for his 2004 U.S. Senate run. Around that same time, Rezko had begun walking away from affordable-housing projects he was building with government funds, leaving some in squalor — including some buildings in Obama’s own Illinois Senate district. Obama said he knew nothing of those problems.
Had Obama known, he said he would have talked to Rezko about the problems. “I think it is deeply troubling he did not keep these properties up, and I am very disappointed in that,” Obama said.
So we have Obama writing letters to the State of Illinois urging it to fund Rezko's low-income housing projects, some of which are in Obama's state senate district. Rezko later walks away and leaves the projects in Indy's Phoenix-like conditions but Obama doesn't know anything about it. He then asks Rezko to help purchase a lot next to a mansion he is purchasing on Chicago's south side, Rezko tours the home with him and Obama later purchases part of the adjoining lot from Rezko. Between his good buddy Rezko and his minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I'm having a lot of trouble with the company Obama keeps.