Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Obama ‘purity’ runs into ‘pay-to-play on steroids’

Old real –estate dealings with the soon-on-trial Tony Rezko raise that issue in the area of real estate. Here’s the chief talking points from the Chicago Tribune:

A Tribune review of land and court documents and law firm files as well as correspondence and other records related to Obama's eight years as an Illinois state lawmaker supports his contention that he did not directly represent Rezko’s development firm. Instead, the records show, he represented non-profit community groups that partnered with Rezko’s firm.

Beyond the heated sound bites is a story of a more complex relationship that long boosted Obama’s political fortunes but now could prove a campaign liability. …

Obama publicly apologized for his 2005 property deal with Rezko, calling it "boneheaded" because Rezko was widely reported to be under grand jury investigation at the time. …

Obama has been accused of no wrongdoing involving Rezko and has insisted that he never used his office to benefit Rezko.

Thus far, there is little in the public record to suggest otherwise, and the few exceptions that have come to light appear minor.

The kicker, to me, is the 2005 deal.

Isn’t this one of the red flags raised against the Dukester, Duke Cunningham — buying below-market housing? Isn't below-market housing repairs a big red flag against Ted Stevens right now? And, in Obama’s own Illinois, isn’t a sweetheart land deal the last memorable act of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert?

And, let’s remember that the Rezko’s prosector is liberal-beloved Pat Fitzgerald, who has already called this case “pay-to-play on steroids.”

Isn’t it doubly bone-headed, at least, to still be keeping close connection to Rezko when you know a Pat Fitzgerald is on the case?

Even if Obama did nothing illegal, it’s a big red flag on his judgment, from where I sit.

Note: I have up-close knowledge of something vaguely similar. The FBI wound up indicting multiple members of the Dallas City Council, including Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, for their connection to a public housing developer, with a variety of financial shenanigans alleged.

More below the fold.

For another blog take on this, here’s Huffington Post’s Taylor Marsh, who calls it the “Faustian bargain” tale of a “political godfather,” in a long, in-depth, dot-connecting post. (Marsh goes on to note a couple of other cases where Obama’s liberal credentials fall a bit short, including one from last year.)

Marsh also raises the question of how Obama could either ignore, or be unaware of, so much dilapidated public housing in his district. That, in turn, also could reflect on his “liberal cred.” Here’s a laundry list of apartment complex problems:
Rezko and Mahru also managed the buildings, which were supposed to provide homes for poor people for 30 years. Every one of the projects ran into trouble:

• Seventeen buildings — many beset with code violations, including a lack of heat — ended up in foreclosure.

• Six buildings are currently boarded up.

• Hundreds of the apartments are vacant, in need of major repairs.

• Taxpayers have been stuck with millions in unpaid loans.

• At least a dozen times, the city of Chicago sued Rezmar for failure to heat buildings.

A lot of people have been talking about how Obama learned “Chicago politics” and how that meant he could stand up to Hillary Clinton in the primaries and the GOP opponent in the general election.

What if Obama learned some of the wrong, and stereotypically all-too-familiar, parts of “Chicago politics” as well?