Obama-Rezko Redux

by Kirk W. Tofte by Kirk W. Tofte

DIGG THIS

Barack Obama was recruited to become a community organizer in Chicago twenty years ago. After three years of doing this work, Obama realized that he could have far more influence in Illinois if he pursued a career in politics as had Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. In furtherance of this notion, Obama began to attend Harvard Law School.

During his third year at Harvard Law, Obama was offered a job by a Chicago real estate developer named Tony Rezko. Obama turned down this opportunity in order to become an attorney with the Davis, Miner and Barnhill law firm.

It was probably no coincidence that one of this firm's biggest clients was Tony Rezko. The firm's senior partner, Allison Davis, was also a power broker behind the rise of Harold Washington to the mayor's seat in the city of Chicago — again, probably no coincidence as far as Obama was concerned.

Allison Davis subsequently left his law firm in order to go into the real estate development business full-time. He became a 51% owner of DV Urban Realty Partners along with Robert Vanecko who owned the remaining 49% of the firm. Vanecko is Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's nephew. Two of Allison Davis' sons, Jared and Cullen, work with their father in the real estate business.

Davis and his associates have received more than $100 million in taxpayer subsidies to build and rehab apartments and houses in Chicago. They have also been paid over $4 million dollars in development fees. As Tim Novak, a Chicago Sun-Times reporter, noted in a November 7, 2007 article for his paper, "Davis has gotten deal after deal from the mayor, helping to make him one of the Chicago's top developers."

In 1993, the same year he was hired by Davis' law firm, Obama began serving on the board of Woods Fund, a Chicago charity foundation. After Allison Davis left his law firm, he went to the foundation for money and Obama voted to invest $1 million of the organization's assets in a Davis real estate partnership.

Ties such as those described above run rampant in the career of Barack Obama from 1993 to the present. Obama has a long history of working with Allison Davis, Tony Rezko, Mayor Daley and Illinois' Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich, to obtain government funding for housing development in Chicago. Davis, Rezko, Daley and others have, in return, helped fund Obama's rise to political prominence. It has been classic, Chicago machine politics with the requirement that people "pay to play."

Without the funding from political Godfathers like Tony Rezko, Obama's career in politics would never have gotten off the ground. But without the aid of corrupt government officials, slumlords like Tony Rezko would never have made the money to contribute to politicians such Obama, Daley and Blagojevich in the first place.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's Federal Indictment of Tony Rezko

The U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald, has made quite a name for himself in recent years. He has successfully prosecuted Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, and former Illinois Republican governor, George Ryan, within the past year. Fitzgerald also convicted several former members of Mayor Daley's administration for "pervasive fraud" in city hiring practices. This spring he successfully concluded a trial against Tony Rezko, convicting him on corruption charges.

In Fitzgerald's indictment of Rezko, he lists eight persons that he refers to as "Co-Schemers." Virtually all of these people have been major contributors to the political campaigns of Barack Obama, Rod Blagojevish and Richard Daley.

Additionally, Fitzgerald's indictment makes specific references to Blagojevish and Obama. The governor is referred to as "Public Official A" and the senator is called a "political candidate."

The fact that Obama, Blagojevish and Daley are all mixed up together in the Rezko affair is not surprising. Favored politicians of both parties in Illinois are often joined at the hip when it comes to political fundraising. For example, a recent analysis done by the Chicago Tribune revealed that Obama has taken in more than $1.5 million dollars for his various campaigns from over seven hundred people who have also contributed to Mayor Daley's candidacies.

Fitzgerald's case against Rezko involved two state regulatory boards. One controls the Teachers Pension System (TPS) and the other, the Health Facilities Planning Board, reviews all proposals for construction projects that involve medical facilities in Illinois.

After Rod Blagojevish was elected governor of Illinois, the "Co-Schemers" stacked the TPS board so that favored investment firms were allowed to invest parts of the retirement fund's $30 billion in assets. The "Co-Schemers" then demanded kick-backs and worked to funnel money into the political organizations of Blagojevish and Obama.

Next the "Co-Schemers" worked to reduce the Health Facilities Planning Board from fifteen members to nine members. Subsequently, they proceeded to stack the board with a bloc of five members that would guarantee them a majority. Three doctors, Imad Amanaseer, Michel Malek and Fortunee Massuda, were named new members in order to secure the necessary majority votes. All three became large contributors to the various campaigns of Barack Obama from this point forward.

On April 21, 2004 the Health Facilities Planning Board approved the building of a new hospital in Crystal Lake, Illinois even though state analysts had said the new facility was not needed. The builder of the hospital, Jacob Kiferbaum, was to have paid bribes to those who made the construction of the hospital possible. The hospital was never built because Fitzgerald's investigators blew the case wide open and even secured a guilty plea from Kiferbaum who is now cooperating with the Feds. Throughout much of this time, Barack Obama was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and was copied in on e-mails and other correspondence regarding these matters.

The Trial of Tony Rezko

At the recently concluded trial of Tony Rezko, the star witness for the prosecution was a Chicago businessman named Stuart Levine. This individual sat on the board that controls the TPS and the Health Facilities Planning Board. He testified that Tom Rosenberg's investment firm, Capri Capital Advisors, was to have received approval to invest a total of $320 million of TPS assets in exchange for a $500,000 kickback to Levine and $1.5 million in political contributions to Governor Blagojevish. Rosenberg was also a producer of Hollywood films and was so close to Allison Davis on a personal level that he had Davis make a cameo appearance in one of his movies.

Obama also has strong ties to investment companies that seek to do business with the state of Illinois. Once the Democrats took over the state legislature in 2003, Obama was assigned to an Illinois senate committee that began looking into public retirement plan matters. Four firms with close relationships with Obama were subsequently awarded hundreds of millions of new dollars to invest on behalf of these plans. Executives of these firms helped raise $300,000 for Obama's U.S. senate seat race in 2004 and even more money for his presidential campaign.

The Daley-Obama Machine

Mayor Richard Daley's office hired Michelle Obama as an assistant to his chief of staff, Valerie Jarrett, in 1991. Daley later appointed Jarrett chairperson of the Office of Planning and Development where Michelle became her assistant.

Today Jarrett is the CEO at Habitat, a real estate development and management firm. It manages the housing program for the Chicago Housing Authority. Jarrett was also a member of Obama's U.S. Senate Finance Committee in 2004 along with Tony Rezko, Rita Rezko and Allison Davis. Jarrett currently serves as an advisor to Obama's presidential campaign.

Kirk W. Tofte Archives