Along with all the other bad news for Team Obama coming out of the arrest and indictment of Illinois Governor "Hot" Rod Blagojevich last week was a footnote divulging that the infamous Chicago slumlord, fast-food restauranteur, and political operator Antoin "Tony" Rezko is now working with Federal prosecutors. His offer to provide evidence of others' wrongdoing is "not complete," and prosecutors are working to corroborate the claims he has made so far.
The Syrian-born Rezko, Barack Obama's longtime ally, friend, and fundraiser, was found guilty in 16 of 24 counts of influence peddling back in June. The jury convicted him of wire and mail fraud, money laundering and aiding and abetting bribery... he was acquitted of attempted extortion. In all, prosecutors said, Rezko squeezed various companies for some $7 million in kickbacks.
In the dramatic trial, former state official Ali Ata told jurors he bought his post with bribes to Rezko, and campaign contributions to Blagojevich. Ata was also one of several witnesses who said Rezko talked of a plot to kill the criminal probe against him by pulling strings with the White House to get U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald fired. Interestingly, Fitzgerald was the lead prosecutor in the Valerie Plume/Scooter Libby leak case, as well as in last week's Blagojevich indictment.
So after conficting indicators, Rezko has clearly cooperated with prosecutors in an effort to reduce his otherwise lengthy stay in the Gray-Bar Hotel, to be quantified at his sentencing hearing in January.
Obama was not named in the court documents, but according to the Chicago Sun-Times, a source familiar with the case confirmed that Obama is the unnamed “political candidate” referred to in the filing. This charge had accused Rezko of orchestrating a scheme in which a firm hired to handle state teacher pension investments 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, as a "straw" donor, according to the court filings.
The news of Rezko's cooperation with prosecutors is anything but good for the new administration-in-waiting. The relationship between Rezko and Obama goes back over 18 years, and is as labrylinthine as it is problematic. Of course, as is his practice, Obama has moved to distance himself since his longtime friend and supporter was first indicted in October 2006.
Tony Rezko had given and raised in excess of $250,000 in contributions for Barack Obama's campaigns over the years, a number triple the amount Obama had publicly acknowleged prior to the trial. Rezko was also involved in numerous opaque transactions and arrangements involving the Democrats' rapidly-rising-star. He was nothing less than a political godfather to both Rod Blagojevich and Obama, facilitating their ascensions in Illinois politics.
Rezko was also appointed by Obama to serve on his U.S. Senate campaign finance committee, where he raised more than $14 million, according to Federal Election Commission records, helping send Obama to Washington in 2004.
And Barack Obama was a primary force in getting city and state money approved for Rezko to build and maintain "affordable housing" in Obama’s district... similar to the programs he's now planning on a massive scale for the entire country, as US President. Scandalously, many of Rezko's projects in Chicago are infamous for being uninhabitible, due to substandard work and a negligent maintainance. People freeze in the winter, plumbing leaks, and a 3 year old boy was even crushed to death by shoddy construction. For more than five weeks during the brutal winter of 1997, tenants shivered without heat in one of these government-subsidized apartment buildings on Chicago's South Side. It was just four years after the landlords... Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru... had rehabbed the 31-unit building in Englewood with a loan from Chicago taxpayers.
While Rezko and Mahru couldn't seem to find money to get the heat back on, their company, Rezmar Corp. , continued to receive city and state funding... even as earlier projects fell into disrepair and financial troubles. The company also somehow managed to come-up-with continuing donations for the political campaign fund of Barack Obama, the newly elected state senator... whose district included the unheated building.
In fact, eleven of Rezko's buildings were in Obama's state Senate district. In this diminutive area, where anyone could walk around and in one day get a basic knowlege of all major residential zones, Obama later stated that he was "unaware" of the conditions at slumlord Rezko's projects... the very ones he had worked enthusiastically to fund with government subsidies.
Also deeply involved with Rezko was Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest friends, who was named on the FBI's Blagojevich tapes as "candidate #1". Jarret was Obama's apparent initial choice to fill his Senate seat, and is now slated to be his Senior White House Advisor. Judicial Watch, a public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, linked Jarrett to a series of real estate scandals, including projects operated by Rezko and Allison Davis, a former boss of Obama's. Housing projects developed and/or operated by Davis and Rezko have been manifestly substandard and beset with code violations. As CEO of The Habitat Company, Jarrett also managed a controversial housing project located in Obama’s district called Grove Parc Plaza, which according to the Boston Globe was considered “uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage.
In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale -- a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.
After news reports revealed that Obama had personally engaged in a real estate transaction in 2005 with Tony Rezko’s wife Rita (at a time when Rezko was known to be under investigation), the young senator speciously dismissed the episode as “boneheaded” and “a mistake.”
Initially, the owner of the mansion would not sell it to Obama because he didn't have enough money to buy both the house, and the large lot next to it- and the seller insisted both had to be sold together. So, Obama bought the house, and Rezko the lot next door. Intriguingly, the house was sold $300k under the asking-price... while Mrs Rezko paid full price for the empty lot. Then the Rezkos simply sold Obama a 10 ft strip of their new property, making his remaining portion of this lot unbuildable. “There’s no doubt I should have seen some red flags in terms of me purchasing a piece of property from him,” Obama had said- once the press uncovered the deal. In the event, Obama in got a mansion worth twice what he paid for it, as in reality the otherwise unusuable neighboring parcel also became the Obama’s private property.
And the real estate agent? None other than Patti Blagojevich- Rod's wife. Powerful Chicago Alderman Richard Mell's daughter Patricia Blagojevich was, in-fact, a partner and real-estate agent for many of Rezko’s transactions that appear to be pay-for-play vehicles in Chicagoland political deals.... where she had made over $700,000 in commisions. Actually, one of the primary causes of Blago's desperation for money -as heard on the FBI's tapes- was the loss of family income from his wife's lucrative real-estate deals with Rezko... which evaporated once he was in Federal custody.
In the case of Rod Blagojevich, Team Obama is, of course, mortified that he isn't going away quietly. The President-elect is now noticably nervous in press conferences, the previous swagger is gone. Obama claims to have "never spoken" to Blago regarding the Senate seat, never-mind that three press items and his own campaign manager previously contradicted this.
It seems likely that, at minimum, Rahm Emanuel or one of his people did speak on FBI tapes to the Governor... and so far, Obama has not attempted to deny that he talks to his own Chief-of-Staff.
Facing a daunting criminal indictment, Blago might too start cooperating with Fitzpatrick. That he would reveal incriminating details regarding Obama's political manuevers is not altogether unlikely, as it is doubtful there is any residual loyalty there... Obama has comprehensively abandonded this former political ally. Chicago Mayor Daley, Rahm Emanuel, Obama, Emil Jones, et. al. all have to be concerned about Blago cooperating with the Feds... and conversely, Blagojevich now has reason to be concerned about getting whacked.
But the larger concern for Obama should be the possibility of Tony Rezko providing damning testimony of their shenanigans over the last two decades. While it's far from certain how much evidence he is willing to provide, Rezko almost certainly knows enough to bring Obamania crashing down in a pile of rubble. It mostly depends on Fitzgerald's aims, if he is targeting Obama at all... or just listening to what Rezko wants to spill, and taking that where that leads him.
Obama's version of events is certain to vary from Rezko's, as the he has a formula of not only distancing himself from friends and collaborators who find themselves in trouble- but condemning them in the media, and then treating them like lepers... along with a healthy dose of historical revisionism. After bus-chucking Rezko, Wright, Ayers, Pfleger, Khalidi, and now Blagojevich... one has to wonder how long before such disloyalty is repaid by one or more of these jilted allies... especially those facing long prison terms.
The wire and mail fraud counts Tony Rezko was convicted of can bring 5 years each, and without some serious collaboration with prosecutors, it’s probable that Rezko will get a sentence that will keep him in prison for life. If Rezko wants to avoid dying in prison, he’ll have to keep cutting deals... until Fitzgerald is satisfied. While the connections to Obama presented in the trial were minor, that doesn't mean there's not a lot more to bring-to-light.
The primary target for prosecutors in Rezko's cooperation was obviously Blagojevich, who was tied to a specific bribe during the trial. However, if Rezko knows where bodies are buried with Obama, this ceases to be an indirect problem and starts to develop as a potential political catastrophe for the President-elect.
One thing that might save Obama from all this would be if Rezko gambles that Obama would pardon him in 2012, when voters show the door to the by-then-debunked messiah.
Of course, no other candidate could have gotten through a presidential campaign without all this coming up for more serious analysis... except Barack, of Obamamania fame. When you consider Rezko's trial was concurrent with the primaries, it is pretty hard to fathom.
Obama has long denied that he ever did any political favors for Tony Rezko. And following his conviction in June, Rezko complained in a letter to the judge that federal authorities tried to pressure him “to tell the wrong things” about the Obama and Blagojevich. But later, The Sun-Times reported that prosecutors pushed Rezko to cooperate in the corruption probe against Blagojevich... he then promptly reversed his previous stance, and the climactic results of which have now become public.
Those of us who have waited-and-waited for the media to get off their collective duff and perform their duty to properly vet candidates have long given up hope that they'd hang-up their pom-poms and get to work. They were always more interested in discrediting or explaining-away red flags regarding The One's past than any effective form of scrutiny.
Instead, they preferred to write stories about his puppies, how he likes to play basketball and listen to Ludacris, his cool neckties, etc. To them, the smoke eminating from Illinois politics is just another "distraction"... and our intentions are suspect if we ask to know the details.
The MSM somehow don't feel the need to be concerned with Obama’s upbringing in the cauldron of Chicago Machine politics, and how such a nobody rose to State senator, US senator, and President-elect in just a few years with no tangible achievements... while assumed to be pure as the driven snow.
The left-leaning media seems to have painted themselves into-a-corner by betting it all on Obama as the anti-Bush, and are now in far too deep, unable to afford a balanced analysis without losing what scrap of credibility they have left.
Tony Rezko or Rod Blagojevich, however, might be just a bit more motivated to bring focus to the myriad dubious events in Obama's past. How really, truly sad it is that we now have to look to men like these two scoundrels to bring much of the country to it's senses... when the clues were there all-along, for anyone who cared to have more than a purfunctory glance.