Dr. Eric Whitaker, one of President Barack Obama's closest friends from Chicago, was responsible for overseeing millions of dollars worth of grants doled out by the state's Department of Health when he served as its director, a position in the Rod Blagojevich administration that Obama was instrumental in helping him land. Whitaker and his chief of staff, Quinshaunta Golden, were responsible for awarding a $4 million AIDS awareness grant to one of their close friends, Leon Dingle, Jr., who instead used the federal grant money for vacation homes, luxury cars and other personal items, including the cost of Whitaker, Golden and Dingle to attend a Toni Braxton concert in Las Vegas where a bird flu summit was being held in 2007. Whitaker became a hostile witness and stopped cooperating after investigators questioned him about the sexual relationship both he and Dingle had with Golden.
When Whitaker left state government, he went to work in a $700,000 a year job at the University of Chicago Medical Center and hired Golden as a top assistant earning $328,000 a year. That's the same medical center which employed Michelle Obama in a $317,000 a year no work, no show job after Obama became a U.S. Senator. Both Whitaker and Golden were later forced to resign their positions with the medical center. Golden has already pleaded guilty to stealing $400,000 from the government. The Chicago Sun-Times reports a motion filed by federal prosecutors to treat Whitaker as a hostile witness names three instances in which he personally benefited from the federal grant money he awarded to Dingle.
- Dingle steered $25,000 in state grant money to the National Medical Fellowship, which honored Whitaker as a distinguished alumnus at a November 2008 gala in Chicago after he’d left the health department. Whitaker and Dingle had "at least one" meeting to discuss the foundation.
- In November 2007, Dingle paid $745 for Rainbow / Push “Unity Globe” awards for Whitaker and Golden and a “Female Ebony Strength Award” for Golden funded “at least in part” with state grant money.
- In October 2007 — during a trip to a bird-flu summit in Las Vegas, Nev. — Dingle, Whitaker, Golden and others attended a dinner and a Toni Braxton concert at the Flamingo hotel. Dingle paid the $1,471 bill for the dinner and concert, “funded at least in part” with grant funds.