Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why Obama cannot escape Blogojevich controversy

Just look at his inner circle

I will begin this op-ed by reminding the readers that all of the “players” in this unfolding drama are Ivy League educated men and women. Most have attended and graduated from law school. They are politicians and captains of industry who have attained their current positions in life because they are among the brightest and smartest individuals that our universities produced. When Obama, Axelrod, Emanuel, Blagoyevich and Valerie Jarrett make comments to the press and feign ignorance and bewilderment in a vain attempt to convince us the ordinary folks that they are clean as the driven snow is insulting.

When the embarrassing conviction of longtime friend Anthony (Tony) Rezko in June 2008 forced a campaigning Barack Obama to admit that “it was a pretty bone headed thing to do” when explaining the sweetheart real estate deal he transacted with Rezko on his Hyde Park home.

It can be safely said that Obama and Rezko’s friendship was extensive enough to call into question Obama’s judgment for doing the deal with someone who, at the time, was under indictment for corruption. Obama was well aware of this when he entered into the deal. It can also be said that the friendship was a cozy one between the Rezko’s and the Obama’s as they broke bread together at each others homes.

Prosecutors accused Rezko of misusing his influence with Blagojevich to corrupt two state boards, one that handled a $40 billion pension fund for most Illinois teachers and the other that vetted hospital projects.

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 told them of a plot to kill the criminal probe against him by pulling strings with the Bush administration to get Fitzgerald fired.

On June 30, 2003, Ali Ata donated $5,000 to the Senate Campaign of Barack Obama. When this contribution came to light after Ata’s indictment Obama donated that contribution to charity. Likewise, Rezko and his wife personally donated $11,500 to the Obama Senate campaign and again after Rezko was indicted Obama donated the money to the Better Boys Foundation in Chicago.

The Chicago way of politics is to take tainted money and if caught donate it to a charitable foundation – problem solved. Thing is, if the money is tainted and not good enough to utilize for the campaign, what makes the money any more untainted to go to a charity. Tainted money is still tainted money. But divert the attention by looking like you are a “charitable guy”.

Recap 1: Obama is friendly with Rezko. Rezko works for Governor Blagoyevich. Rezko is also friends with Ali Ata from whom he bought his political seat and donates money to Obama. Obama buy’s home with Rezko help. Obama served as Blagoyevich’s top advisor in his first run to the statehouse and endorsed him personally in the Governors’ 2002 and 2006 campaigns.

Obama’s relationship with the Governor is best summed up in this interview:
On the Chicago TV show “Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz” on June 27, 2002, state Sen. Obama said, “Right now, my main focus is to make sure that we elect Rod Blagojevich as Governor, we…”
“You working hard for Rod?” interrupted Berkowitz.
“You betcha,” said Obama.
“Hot Rod?” asked the host.
“That’s exactly right,” Obama said.
When Rezko was convicted in June 08 he was scheduled to be sentenced in Oct 08. Then when October came around, the prosecutor (Fitzgerald) and the Judge entered into an agreement that will delay the sentencing until after the elections in November. Speculation was that Rezko was singing like a canary to curry favor for a reduced sentence. Speculation had Rezko giving up his boss (Blagoyevich) and possibly Obama.

The FBI had already opened an investigation into the land deal between Obama and Rezko and had issued subpoenas to the mortgage company that brokered the deal.

When Blagoyevich was arrested it came as a surprise that it was on charges unrelated to the Rezko dealings. Blagoyevich was aware he was under investigation and being wiretapped, but tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat anyway, through a myriad of phone calls, emails and meetings, all of which were being listened in on by Fitzgerald.

The Rezko land deal with Obama quickly faded into the background as this new revelation came to light. Now Obama had to go into damage control mode over a few items that were in the indictment. Though the land deal quickly evaporated from the press it still looms largely as a potential liability to Obama.

The recent indictment listed Senate Candidate 1, which turned out to be Valerie Jarrett who is a long time friend of the Obama’s and was interested in occupying his vacant Senate Seat.

“When it came time for Obama's US Senate campaign, Valerie Jarrett became the campaign finance chairman and worked hand and hand with fellow finance committee members, Rita and Tony Rezko, and his former boss at the law firm, Allison Davis, in fundraising endeavors. The committee raised more than $14 million, according to Federal Election Commission records, Tim Novak reported in the Sun-Times on April 23, 2007.”

Valerie Jarrett – Obama transition team member

Co-Chair, Obama-Biden Transition Project

Selected by Obama for
White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison Jarrett will manage the White House Office of Public Liaison and work with state and local governments.

She was Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard Daley

CEO of The Habitat Company

David Axelrod – Obama transition team member & Spokesman
When Obama first came out with a press conference after Blogojevich was arrested for the attempted selling of his vacant seat, he stated:
“I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”
Then later in the morning the Press divulged that David Axelrod held a press conference two weeks prior to the arrest said this on a Fox News Chicago interview:
“I know he’s talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.”
Then later the same day an Obama aid issued this statement:
“What the president-elect said today is correct, David Axelrod misspoke,” the aide said.
Then Axelrod says the same in a statement later in the day:
“I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.”
Remember my introduction to this op-ed, I said that the players were well educated, well this may be in contradiction to that belief. This is another obvious attempt at damage control over the Senate Seat discussions between Obama camp and Blagojevich.
Axelrod had worked for Blagojevich in his past races for the House, but he declined to work on his gubernatorial run.
David Axelrod said this in a 2002 New Yorker interview:
“He had been my client and I had a very good relationship with him, but I didn’t sign on to the governor’s race. Obviously he won, but I had concerns about it…I was concerned about whether he was ready for that. Not so much for the race but for governing. I was concerned about some of the folks — I was concerned about how the race was being approached.”
The above comment of Axelrod allows for us to look into how he saw the potential Governor of yesterday and place it in context of today. If he was concerned about “some of the folks” that surrounded the Governor back then, it is safe to assume that he was aware of the types of people and their character when thinking of his dealings with him over the Senate Seat. A leopard doesn’t change his spots.

Rahm Emanuel – Obama Transition team and future “Chief of Staff”

The silence of this man currently is deafening. He is as far away from cameras as he could be.

The indictment also listed Advisor 1, which turned out to be Rahm Emanuel, who was in direct contact with Blagoyevich to discuss and pass along names that Obama wished to see as potential candidates for the open seat.,0,3359611.story

Recap 2: Valerie Jarret has close and intimate ties with Tony Rezko who was a close confidant and “bag man” for the Governor. David Axelrod is aware of the character of the Governor since at least 2002 when he decided not to work on his campaign, but saw fit to allow Rahm Emanuel to engage in discussions surrounding Obama’s Senate Seat vacancy. Rahm Emanuel represents the 5th Congressional District in Illinois and that seat was discussed in the indictment. Emanuel is also mentioned in the indictment as President Elect Advisor 1. Emanuel was elected to congress in the seat that was vacated by Blagojevich when he became Governor.

So with all of the extensive intertwining relationships between all of the players who were mentioned in the recent indictment it will be interesting to see what stories the Obama team will again concoct to try to distance themselves from the Senate Seat criminal issue facing the Governor. It will be unsuccessful because of the history between all of these corrupt players.

One thing for sure, when Rezko was convicted it set into motion a force that I believe will bring down Obama and his corrupt circle of friends, maybe not before he takes office but surely during. Rezko gave up Blagoyevich and thus Blagoyevich will give up Obama. It is the nature of deal making between criminals that don’t want to spend more time behind bars if they have something to offer. All roads or offers lead to the President, and he knows it.

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