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Obamarama - Levine, Rezko, Cari

Friday, Jan 19, 2007

The AP is reporting that Obama’s campaign is wooing an important cog in Hillary Clinton’s New York machine. [Hat tip: Curry]

Just because New York’s former state comptroller is backing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn’t mean rival Sen. Barack Obama can’t call.

H. Carl McCall said Thursday that Obama is trying to make inroads on Clinton’s home turf, and he was among the Democrats to hear from Obama’s campaign. McCall ran for governor in 2002, the state’s first black candidate for governor from a major political party.

Who is Carl McCall? Well, he’s connected to Joe Cari and Stu Levine, two prominent players in Illinois corruption. Cari and McCall were managing directors for HealthPoint Partners, which made a full-on press in Illinois and California for pension fund investments in their firm. Levine was the power at the Illinois Teachers Retirement System board of directors.

HealthPoint held a 2003 fundraiser in New York City for Gov. Rod Blagojevich that still has people scratching their heads with wonder because right after the funder, HealthPoint got some big investments from Levine’s Teachers Retirement System.

HealthPoint Partners, a New York investment firm, held a fund-raiser for Blagojevich at the Harvard Club of New York City on Oct. 29, 2003. It was one of three money-raising events for the governor in New York that day, and his campaign stressed HealthPoint had nothing to do with the other two.

Two days later, TRS voted to invest $15 million with HealthPoint, following up on a $20 million investment it made with the firm in April 2003.

Former TRS board member Stuart Levine paid for the private plane that flew Blagojevich to New York, but Blagojevich flew home separately. Also aboard the flight there was prominent Chicago lawyer Joseph Cari, who at the time was a HealthPoint managing director.

Levine and Cari have since been indicted in the TRS corruption probe, and the Blagojevich campaign has returned or donated to charity the cost of the flight and all other contributions the two gave — nearly $20,000 total. The $3,500 HealthPoint spent on meals for the event also has been donated.

Not mentioned in the article is that McCall reportedly organized a second fundraiser on that trip at an exclusive New York club.

Levine’s juice in the Blagojevich administration was Tony Rezko. Rezko was scheduled to be on the New York flight with the governor and his pals, but mega Blagojevich fundraiser Chris Kelly went instead.

And then there’s this.

Remember that Joe Cari was the first person to describe to the feds a “fundraising scheme” involving Public Official A and two of his henchmen, since revealed to be Blagojevich, Kelly and Rezko. The scheme essentially involved using the teachers pension fund to raise campaign cash.

One of Carl McCall’s major political patrons was James A. Harmon, an international financier whom Clinton appointed chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Harmon also sat on the global advisory board of an outfit called J. E. Robert Companies, an asset and real-estate management company based in McLean, Virginia. Harmon’s daughter, Deborah, was president of the company.

J. E. Robert had solicited the teachers’ retirement board for an $85-million investment, and McCall phoned Levine on Harmon’s behalf. Here is where the fundraising scheme described by Cari allegedly came into play. Levine, Cari says in his plea agreement, was willing to use his sway on the teachers’ pension board to award $85 million to J. E. Robert if, in return, the company would hire a consultant of Levine’s choice (which turned out to be for 1 per-cent of the investment—$850,000). Cari claimed the consultant would then contribute some of the money he or she made (without doing any work) to certain political or charitable organizations “as directed by Levine.”

McCall indirectly popped up in Illinois news again last month.

A state pension fund has decided to postpone dropping minority-owned money manager Ariel Capital Management LLC for poor investment performance, after lobbying by two state senators and a former aide to Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Illinois State Board of Investment (ISBI), which had decided to terminate Ariel at the end of this month, voted last Friday to keep Ariel through the end of next year as a mutual fund investment option for self-directed state employee pension plans. […]

Top ISBI officials were contacted by state Sens. James Meeks and Don Trotter, both Chicago Democrats, and by Cheryle Jackson, who recently left the Blagojevich administration to become president of the Chicago Urban League, where two Ariel executives are directors.

McCall sits on Ariel’s board of trustees.

One of the reasons McCall lost his 2002 race for New York governor were allegations like this:

During the gubernatorial campaign, Republicans unearthed letters McCall had written to executives of companies in which the fund was invested. These documents, written on official letterhead, sought jobs for three family members.

In the most egregious example, McCall wrote to Verizon executive Fred Salerno congratulating him on the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX.

‘I am particularly pleased because New York’s Retirement Fund, which I manage, owns 3,833,300 shares of the combined companies,’ McCall wrote. ‘I hope you will keep me informed of your progress, and call me if I can help in any way. Under separate cover, I am sending the resume we discussed.’

Months later, McCall’s daughter was hired as a ‘specialist.’ She was terminated in early 2001 after improper personal use of a company credit card and later charged with larceny, according to the September 27, 2002 edition of the New York Post.

As noted above, HealthPoint, through McCall and Cari, were also involved in a big push for pension fund investments in California.

State Controller and gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly steered California’s giant pension system to invest in a fledgling venture capital fund whose politically connected partners helped him raise campaign cash.

Before Westly’s involvement, the pension board’s outside advisors had rejected the fund as ill-suited for its portfolio. After the investment was made, one of the partners became enmeshed in an unrelated pension-fund scandal in Illinois, pleading guilty to attempted extortion.

If Obama is gonna run as a breath of fresh air, then the campaign needs to vet their contacts a bit better. Or at least stop bragging to the press about them.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Pat Hickey - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 8:42 am:

    John Rogers of Aeil Capital Management is heavier than whale poop - he has Arne Duncan locked at CPS as well as the guy who kicked diret on Father Smyth at Maryville, Bryan ‘ DCHS Body-Count’ Samules, his ex- the Lotto Juggler Desiree at Peoples Gas, and his folks at Urban League. The man is a titan.

  2. - Pat Hickey - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 8:46 am:

    My apologies for the errata - stubby fingers; bad eyes; ten cent head.

  3. - Wumpus - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 9:18 am:

    Too many dots to xconnect. If people couldn’t comprehend Blago’s pay to play, they will not beable to follow this maze of a man the public adores, Obama. Good stuff though.

  4. - Squideshi - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 9:34 am:

    Obama looks and sounds good; but like the average politican, he says very little about the specifics. I get the impression that Obama is the product of an improved Democratic noise machine, in response to the very successful noise machine built by the Republicans over the past several years.

  5. - the Other Anonymous - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 9:57 am:

    The RNC has a pretty impressive habit of trashing the Democratic nominee’s home state. Remember how Arkansas became a symbol for a backward, hillbilly state in 1992? And Massachusetts became the home of limousine liberals who disdained ordinary Americans in favor the ACLU and ivory tower theories both in 1988 and 2004?

    Imagine what they will say about Illinois if Obama becomes the nominee. Clearly, the storyline will be corruption. Even though Illinois has produced some of the most respected political leaders in recent history (Adlai Stevenson, Paul Simon, Bob Michel, Everett Dirksen), we’ve also produced legendary corruption.

    Obama needs to be careful about his contacts. He also needs to closely align himself with the positive side of Illinois politics. He’s off to a good start with the Springfield announcement.

  6. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 10:14 am:

    Before we start blaming others for exposing unethical connections between saints and sinners, lets simply admit these connections exist.

    There is no benefit in covering up. It is better for a candidate to answer questions regarding this than to trash those who bring it up.

    As I have been saying for a month, Obama will find it challenging to pass himself off as a reformer coming as he does from the Chicago. As more indictments, court procedures and negative news is generated by his pals, the more Obama will need to explain himself.

    Ever been to Arkansas? Ever do business there? Ever talk politics in Boston? Stop pretending these places are Disney-esque and the RNC is just smearing them. As to Chicago, we’ll EVERYONE knows how politics is played there. Anyone who is successful in Chicago politics should be looked at carefully. Sorry, the rumors are based on facts, and thoughtful voters should ask Obama questions about his ties to corrupt Chicago politicians in the news.

    Can Obama be the petunia in the rotting dumpster of onions? Yes, definately! But he just hasn’t been in office long enough for us to get to know him beyond his shirtless beach pictures and Oprah interviews. So the questions are good ones.

    Voters are not stupid. If Obama is a saint, we’ll figure it out. If Obama isn’t, then we need to know that too. Stop worrying.

  7. - HeKnowsBarack - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 10:51 am:

    My guess is that Edwards Gore Vilsack, Richardson and yes The Hill has called McCall…. it is fun to see that McCall apparently opted to “announce” the call…Hmmmm.

  8. - Garp - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 11:08 am:

    Obama better win the presidency now before the boys get their hooks into him further. If he becomes a statesman before the money men can make him into their political pawn he might have a chance. The Rezco house deal demonstrates that he can be duped.

    “Obama now, while he still has a soul”

    How is that for a campaign slogan?

  9. - Anon - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 11:37 am:

    From the Washington Post -

    When former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards finally succeeded last month in selling his imposing Georgetown mansion for $5.2 million after it had languished on the market, the names of the buyers were not publicly disclosed.
    At the time, Edwards’s spokeswoman told reporters that the house had been sold to an unidentified corporation. In reality, the buyers were Paul and Terry Klaassen, according to several sources and confirmed by Edwards’s spokeswoman yesterday.
    The wealthy founders of the nation’s largest assisted-living housing chain for seniors, the Klaassens are currently cooperating with a government inquiry in connection with accounting practices and stock options exercised by them and other company insiders.

    How interesting that Democratic candidates don’t seem to care who they do business with.

    That’s because their base doesn’t care if their elected leaders are corrupt. In fact, they almost expect them to be corrupt.

    Examples - N.J., Chicago, Boston, Louisiana, New Orleans, D.C., almost all big cities.

  10. - Get out your Hall of Fame Ballot - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 11:43 am:

    Cause this is some insider baseball.

  11. - aidanquinn - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 11:59 am:

    Maybe Clinton should also “vet” her contacts a little better!

  12. - vole - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 12:28 pm:

    Can anyone who is elected to higher office in the US not be connected somehow with crony capitalists,rainmakers and corrupt public officials? I fear that these types of connections may have become the norm and just feed the idea that many of us have that the US has become a plutocracy run by rich elites.

    Obama’s purchase of a million plus dollar home in Chicago (under suspect circumstances), plus his rise as a celebrity do not give me a lot of confidence that he has not partially used his rise in politics for fame and fortune, despite his claims to modesty and humility. In this respect, he is falling very much into the footsteps of the Clintons. So much for the Abe remake.

    Why am I such a cynical SOB?

  13. - zatochi - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 2:23 pm:

    BO stinks.

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then its a _________

  14. - zatochi - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 2:31 pm:

    Everyone is cleaner than the Clintons. They can only go up.

  15. - Papa Legba - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 2:37 pm:

    My son is pretty intelligent. As a matter of fact he could have had a full ride to almost any college/university he wanted too.

    His biggest problem is he is sorely lacking in common sense, can’t even check the air pressure on the tires of his car.

    Is Obama the same type of creature? I hope not.

  16. - Whatever - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 2:39 pm:

    Truthfully, what has Obama done for the poor, women and minorities since he has been in the US Senate? What significant accomplishments has he made? The Clintons have done far more for the downtrodden of society than Obama. Hillary has a tremendous amount of experience. Obama is a 1st term Senator. He’s traveled far away from our country to Kenya - great. He made a remarkable speech at the Democratic National Convention - great. We know that he’s done cocaine and smoked pot. It’s amazing to me that we might actually have someone in the White House that has done cocaine AND smoked pot. Maybe the song “White Lines” from the 80’s should be the theme song for his campaign. There used to be a time where those revelations would nail a political career. And somehow, some women think Obama is this unusually good looking man. JFK, Jr. was good looking. Barack is average - I just don’t get this total love affair with Barack. What has he done for us lately in Illinois??

  17. - Sheldon - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 4:04 pm:

    This is all about $$$$$$, Davis Axelrod is shaping the Obama image like you sell tooth paste, even if Obama is not a real contender he still stands to make 50-100 million in fundraising all of which Axelrod and company get a percentage of. I am suprised that Obama is letting himself be pimped by these guys.

  18. - Truthful James - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 4:39 pm:

    Why do we keep pushing moths closer to flames? Everybody is trying to beleieve that Obama is he second coming of JFK. Let’s give time a chance. I would like to see him run Illinois as governor for a term. That should bring out the best in him and we will have a better idea of executive ability.

    Otherwise, he will just be a creature of his handlers instead of his own proven man.

  19. - vole - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 5:13 pm:

    We are muddling into another election with all the elements that brought us unsatisfactory results in the past still very much intact. The media seem to be quite happy replaying the same tired, horse race themes. It does seem that money and media coverage make or break the candidates, while serious policy analysis remains an unachievable ideal. I guess I should not transfer my frustration with the system on to Obama or the other candidates. Even within the blogs it is difficult to move a discussion toward policy issues, as partisans frequently shift the discussion toward personality topics (although corruption issues do need a thorough letting). The freaking system sucks! It is really BS that candidates have to get into the gutters to raise so much campaign money before the campaigns even begin. The selection process is about over before the primaries begin! If you think the system works, how do you explain our current president and governor?

  20. - Antoin - Friday, Jan 19, 07 @ 7:02 pm:

    Obama is not about changing business as usual or hope. He is part of the money machine. BILL DALEY (SBC Ameritech, Investment banking, bad for consumers, no interest for education money at Amalgamated) is his consultant. He is endorsing Richie Daley who is part of the conspiracy named in Sorich/Slattery and the Bridgeport builder suit in the Chicago Sun Times.

  21. - Rich - Saturday, Jan 20, 07 @ 12:40 pm:

    Obama is politics as usual.

  22. - Cassandra - Sunday, Jan 21, 07 @ 10:39 am:

    I agree with The Other Anon but I also wonder how long this Obama campaign is really going to last, David Axelrod notwithstanding. Axelrod, of course, can always switch over to Hillary and likely will if Obambi fades away back to the Senate. Campaign consultants are always for sale.

    Despite all the Obambi hype, national news shows this weekend are commenting on a very recent poll showing a subset of Democratic voters favoring Hillary over Obambi 41 to 17 percent, almost three to one.That’s pretty amazing.

    This could be a short stay in the national candidate sun. And not because Hillary has a better campaign team. There’s name recognition, the power of Bill’s strategy skills, money and, yes, maybe the culture of corruption in Illinois which Obama has done nothing to change. In fact, he appears to have taken to it enthusiastically, what with the Rezko Vacant Lot and the Rezko-referred intern. And being endorsed by da Mare, the master of behind the scenes ,I didn’t see anything, public corruption, may not be such a boon after all.

    And if Obama’s campaign strategists are courting Daley, maybe they are not as smart as many bloggers would have us believe.

  23. - Squideshi - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 7:57 am:

    While we all debate who the Republican and Democratic nominees will be, it should be remembered that the Green Party will also have a nominee.

  24. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 8:37 am:

    If McCall is such an asset to a campaign, why does he appear to be so serially stupid?

    Rhetorical question-no answer required.

  25. - YNM - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 9:56 am:

    truthful, what politician is not merely a “creature of his handlers”? In fact … way too much emphasis is placed on a candidate’s experience. We should be looking much more closely at who they will surround themselves with than what they have or have not had experience with.

  26. - Truthful James - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 10:31 am:


    What I would prefer is to have an executive record based on a set of principles, ameliorated by a political understanding of what is possible.

    Governors face whole sets of economic decisions, some of which might be politically devastating. When Gov. Ogilvie thought it necessary to put an income tax on Illinois taxpayers, he knew that it would be politically devastating. He did not have to use a Rove or a Morris to determine whther it was palatable, and it was done. Being a legislator is an endless set of compromises based on the hope of reelection.

  27. Pingback Biden praises Clinton, McCain — but what about his backstory? More Chicago info for newly ex-Democrats election 2008… « Valentine Bonnaire - Tuesday, Sep 23, 08 @ 1:33 pm:

    […] Obamarama - Levine, Rezko, Cari […]

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