Obama bought a mock Georgian mansion on Chicago's south side on June 15, 2005, the same day Rezko's wife bought a plot next door from the same seller. Obama then purchased from Rezko another parcel at above-market value. Federal prosecutors recently revealed that Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi billionaire who lives in London, wired $3.5 million to the financially strapped Rezko in Chicago less than a month before the Obama-Rezko purchases. James Bone, investigative reporter for the Times of London, wrote last Tuesday that "the money transfer raises the question of whether funds" from Auchi "helped" Obama buy his house .Let's sum it up. We have Tony Rezko, a Syrian native, who is known as a political fixer in Illinois Democratic politics. He's facing serious jail time if he's convicted, and he's a friend of Obama's, having helped him raised six-figure sums in campaign contributions--perhaps of dubious origin. We have Nadhimi Auchi, a corrupt Iraqi businessman involved in the Oil for Food scandal, wiring $3.5 million to Rezko about the same time as Rezko was helping out Obama with the purchase of his southside Chicago home. There is some debate about whether Auchi and Obama have actually met each other, although people are trying to figure out how Auchi was able to travel to Chicago, Obama's hometown, in 2004 with his criminal record in France. It doesn't necessary all add up to a crime, but if there is one there, you can bet Fitzgerald will root it out. Democrats would be wise to keep Clinton around for a little longer as insurance if for no other reason.
Obama has conceded his simultaneous home purchase with Rezko was a "boneheaded" mistake. He is returning $150,000 raised by Rezko and his associates, and is contributing to charity $72,650 in Rezko contributions. Asked by Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Nov. 11 why he was "associating with such a person," Obama replied, "There was no evidence of wrongdoing," but added, "There's no doubt that it was a mistake on my part." He made clear he had cut off all contact with Rezko "since he got in trouble with the law."
But the case against Rezko prepared by the always determined U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald poses possible new pitfalls for the Democratic front-runner by introducing into the proceedings Auchi, who has been convicted on corruption charges in France and given a suspended sentence. While his friends describe Auchi and his family as victims of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, Pentagon sources call him a "bagman" who laundered money in London for the Iraqi dictator.
Chicago Sun-Times reporters Chris Fusco and Tim Novak asked last week how it was possible for Auchi to get government permission to visit Chicago in 2004 despite his French criminal conviction. Obama aides were quoted as saying Auchi never reached out to the senator, and representatives of both men say neither has any recollection of meeting the other. But the Times of London reported last week that "the two may have had a brief encounter" at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. It is an indistinct part of an indistinct story Hillary Clinton's handlers wish had attracted attention before now.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Why Democrats Should Want Clinton To Hang Tight
While some Democrats are wishing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) would just go away, they could come to be thankful she's still in the race as an alternative to the largely unvetted Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Right now the nation's top U.S. prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has his eyes set on sending Gov. Rod Blagojevich's fixer, Tony Rezko, to jail for corrupt influence peddling with his trial getting under way this week. Those familiar with Fitgerald's prosecutorial history know he's really got his eye on an even bigger prize, Blagojevich. He's already sent one former Illinois governor to jail and the handwriting is on the wall that Blagojevich is just a short walk away from facing his own indictment. Unfortunately for Obama, Rezko is a little too close to him, having helped him out on the purchase of a pricey Georgian mansion on Chicago's southside. Up to now, it looked like little more than a case of bad judgment on Obama's part to get involved with any business transaction involving Rezko. A revelation from federal prosecutors recently is shedding an entirely different light on this story. As Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak writes: