Thursday, Jan 31, 2008
* For the third time in more than a year, Senator Obama’s presidential campaign announced this week that it was shedding more donations tied to Tony Rezko. The announcement came amidst the Florida primary and didn’t receive much press. Some watchdog groups like the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform have praised the Senator for his decision, but many more are left scratching their heads:
In the latest total, Obama has promised to give to charity more than $150,000 he collected through Rezko. His campaign said the latest installment of $72,650 was raised for his 2004 U.S. Senate race at a dinner at Rezko’s 8,500-square-foot Wilmette mansion. Obama’s campaign still has not offered a clear explanation of how it determines Rezko-linked donations or why he has dealt with them piecemeal, apparently in reaction to bad publicity.
The public records don’t make clear every Rezko connection. The records show that since 1995, $74,500 came from Rezko, his relatives or contributors listed on official disclosure forms as employees of one of his businesses. Rezko has not raised money for Obama’s presidential campaign. Furthermore, different media outlets have reported ranging figures:
It’s understandable that it is difficult to determine all the donations that have some connection to Rezko in one way or another. For instance, if Rezko holds a fundraiser at his house, do you give away all the donations that were raised there, or just the ones that were given by friends of Rezko? A donor may attend the event that has never even met Rezko, but was brought by a friend of a friend. On top of that, you risk offending donors over the giveaway:
* What’s more troubling than the giveaway though are the hazy explanations. In a Chicago Tribune column today Eric Zorn highlights some of these statements:
Now contrast these claims with some of the headlines that were circulating around the time of the land deal with Rezko:
* 7-18-2004 - Blagojevich adviser tied to appointee; Doctor, fundraiser co-owned condos
* and the most blatant: 5/26/2005 - Tony Rezko; Top fundraiser, adviser and close friend of Blagojevich faces scrutiny as controversies dog the administration in which he has played a crucial behind-the-scenes role
Now, either it would be an understatement to say that the Senator is being disingenuous about all he knew of Rezko at the time, or he is being honest about how much he knew, and it truly was a “boneheaded mistake.” The latter is a lot harder to swallow. Which ever it is, it still undermines his campaign theme of better judgment. Watch for Hillary to spring this on him again in tonight’s debate, but this time with a sharper edge.