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In defense of the locals

Wednesday, Jan 23, 2008 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We’ve been hearing for weeks from the national punditry that Barack Obama hasn’t been fully vetted by the media. I think that’s mostly wrong, and I angrily told that to a national reporter who called me last week.

Will something else come out about Obama? Could be. One never knows what might get mentioned at Tony Rezko’s trial, for instance.

But the Tribune explains today what they dug through to get at any connections between the law firm Obama worked for and Rezko…

At the Tribune’s request, Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans produced a list of all 260 civil and criminal cases in which the firm filed appearances, and the Tribune separately examined 1990s lawsuits that Rezmar Corp. listed in applications for government grants. The paper also examined files from the Illinois Housing Development Authority and the city housing department, as well as the hundreds of clients Obama listed in the unusually frank ethics disclosure reports he filed as a state senator from December 1995 through April 2004.

The scouring turned out mostly to be a dud. Still, it was a heckuva lot of work.

* That doesn’t include all the other stuff the Tribune has done, like this

The Tribune analyzed 119 grants in which Obama steered more than $6 million for Chicago projects between late 1999 and late 2002, the heart of his Statehouse career and the center of a state government frenzy in which Obama said the pork-barrel process was “wide open.”

* The Trib has also filed dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests on Obama, sources say, and they combed through Obama’s list of nearly 100 interns to find one connected to Rezko. And, of course, it was the Tribune which figured out that Rezko had bought the lot next door to Obama’s house.

* The Sun-Times has been doing a lot of work, too, like this piece which tracked down a bunch of people who attended a long-ago Obama fundraiser hosted by Rezko.

* The CS-T also dug into something I wouldn’t even dream of doing

A Sun-Times review of student evaluations from Obama’s 10 years of teaching part-time at the University of Chicago Law School shows that students almost always rated Obama as one of their top instructors — except for one quarter in 1997.

That’s pretty deep, if you ask me.

They also found a photo of Obama and Rezko today that I don’t ever remember seeing.

* And then there’s all the leftover Blair Hull opposition research that’s found its way into the Clinton campaign via her assistant campaign manager Mike Henry, who ran Hull’s disastrous 2004 primary against Obama. One of Hull’s sharpest criticisms of Obama was his “Present” votes in the state Senate, so it’s no surprise that Clinton is now using it, too. Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet made the connection…

Henry, back in 2004, when he was working for Hull, orchestrated a series of mailings to Illinois voters which referenced the Obama present votes on abortion with a picture of a duck and “He ducked” in the headline. The mailings came out just before the March, 2004 Illinois primary so they would be hard to rebut.

Sweet has been following Obama around for months, tracking his every move. Nobody has more intense coverage of Obama’s campaign than Sweet.

* Again, something more may be found. The Tribune and the Sun-Times might possibly still be working on stories. There may be a “silver bullet” in Hull’s old OR that hasn’t been used yet (I doubt it, however).

But for the national types to claim that Obama’s past is mostly unknown is just a total crock. All they have to do is comb through the Tribune and CS-T’s archives, or try the Google. A lot of very hard work has already been done, and is still being done today. Too many reporters based in DC, or NY, or LA think that all there is to know is in their own publications. Not so.

I often criticize the media, but in this instance I’d like to take my hat off to the locals who have really done a bang-up job on this Obama thing.


  1. - Bill Baar - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 7:45 am:

    I think what’s meant here …hasn’t been fully vetted by the media… is the media hasn’t bothered to read the considerable work that’s been done and written about locally.

    Rezko’s web is extremely complex and it’s going to take a while for it to be understood, and then everyone he touched evaluated by voters.

    I’d appreciate knowing the date and circumstances of the picture.

  2. - dude - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 7:51 am:

    The chicago media had the rezko proffer in front of them for ages and never looked at the relation to barack until last week! They have done an awful job investigating barack. The little effort they have put forth has yielded a significant amount of dirt on this so called new politician. Trust me, there is ALOT more out there about this guy. People should reach out to his old chicago staff, that ironically has no involvement in the campaign. Rich, one day, when this is all over, I will personally contact you to show you what the press has missed. That is a promise!
    It is also interesting that the suntimes wrote an article about the SLUMLORD ALLISON DAVIS, but did not even mention that he was barack’s mentor, employer, client, and significant political contributor. If that is not a dereliction of duty, I do not know what is. By the way, the picture that you never saw before was not discovered by the sun times. It was first exposed by ben smith of the politico. Another break by an out of state reporter. Also, the la times mentions today that kelly king dibble, one of rezko’s closest associates, continues to be active and contribute to barack’s campaign. Rezko’s tentacles are significant. Also, you don’t even mention the la times article regarding yesse yehuda. $1000 Contribution to obama by numerous individuals employed by yehuda who never gave before that point. One was yehuda’s treasurer and the other his chair for his race where he ran AGAINST obama. Why are they all supporting him? Perhaps it is because days later, obama sponsors a $75,000 illinois first grant to yehuda’s organization that turned out to be a fraud. CONNECT THE DOTS my bearded friend! READ THE ARTICLE! Also, note the reference to the white tote board in the la times. No chicago reporter has ever mentioned it. You cannot deny, that obama has, on multiple occasions been forced to revise the amount rezko raised for him. The last estimate they gave was 600K!! The guy is lying…some kind of new politician. There is so so so much more out there!!

  3. - Squideshi - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:03 am:

    The only real vetting I need on Obama is that he voted for the Military Commissions Act and to extend the Patriot Act. I can’t support someone who did that.

  4. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:06 am:

    The Yehuda thing was first reported by the Tribune.

    Dibble is kind of a stretch. And the LAT buried it at the end, so even they thought it was a stretch. Dozens, hundreds of people in Chicago have had contact with Rezko in one way or another.

    I’ve never seen an estimate of $600K. Biggest I’ve seen was today’s LAT, which was $200K.

    And, finally, I hear that “I’ll tell you when it’s over” crap all the time and then it never happens. You got something? Email me. Otherwise, don’t make remarks like that here.

  5. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:09 am:

    Also, dude, the Rezko proffer was released I think December 28th. So it took them a couple-three weeks to figure it out. Not sure I get your point there.

  6. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:15 am:

    ===suntimes wrote an article about the SLUMLORD ALLISON DAVIS, but did not even mention that he was barack’s mentor, employer, client, and significant political contributor.===

    From the Sun-Times

    ===When Barack Obama took a job at a small Chicago law firm in 1993, the first name on the door of the firm was Allison S. Davis.

    Five years later, having left his Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland firm, Davis invested in Antoin “Tony'’ Rezko’s final government-subsidized, low-income housing project, state records show, in a deal handled by Davis’ former law firm. ===

    Also, see this CS-T piece, and this and this.

    I really think you’re off your meds, “dude.” Nothing you wrote made sense. After all the digging both papers have done, you can’t possibly say they’ve put forth just a “little effort.”

    Again, put up or kindly fade away.

  7. - archpundit - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:23 am:

    Errr…Hillary Clinton’s oppo is using the S-T story about Davis and Rezko as a talking point so the whole they haven’t mentioned Barack and Davis’ relationship is a bit strained.

  8. - anon - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:32 am:

    Hillary’s tied to Rezko through Individual H.

  9. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:37 am:

    Good point, anon. Read about it here.

  10. - amy - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:41 am:

    Rezkobamarama is all about good developers vs.
    bad ones. People who help get good affordable
    housing vs. those who try and make a buck off
    the poor. south shore bank types are good ones
    and rezkobamarama ones are bad ones. If you
    partnered with Rezko, you were not very smart
    in terms of quality. But you did smell the money.

    In housing deals lawyers typically make lots of money, especially through the financing
    mechanisms. Allison Davis makes lots of money.
    His co workers and allies, Vince Lane (prison),
    Valerie Jarrett (Obama campaign high up), and,
    yes, Rich, your Saint Barack, all have to answer
    for the products they produce. And, in the
    case of Obama, the thousands of dollars of
    benefit he received through his association
    and work with this corrupt and substandard developer.

    funny, but the only good housing Rezkobamarama
    seems to have produced is the MichelleBarack house.

  11. - Vole - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 8:50 am:

    The national media will keep the story murky with their shorthanded summaries which never clarify. The Clinton duo will continue to exploit the murkiness and leave Obama circulating in muddy eddies. Better for the Clinton’s that the national media leaves suspicions that there is something there than to reveal what exactly what that “is” is.

  12. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 9:12 am:

    Now we’ll see if it has legs. In my mind, the house purchase is the big thing, much more than the contributions. Everyone who has ever bought a house has to wonder:

    1. .Sweet deal for Barack — what’s in it for Rezko?

    2. Why would an ambitious politician with presidential ambitions take the risk of doing of personal business with someone who has so much federal heat? What does that say about judgement as well as ethics?

    Everyone will be on it now. We’ll see how it works in the primaries. If Barack’s nominated, I guarantee you the Republicans will be creating spots .

    I predict we’ll see more Barack Rezko photos seen.

    The heat’s on. We’ll see if he can take it.

  13. - IPA Victim - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 9:14 am:

    You guys are patting yourself on the back for investigating Obama, but what about Hillary? I am a small business owner from the East Coast who can’t believe how corrupt Illinois is. My business was victimized by International Profit Associates in Illinois. Yet I can barely find anything about this dirty company in the Illinois press despite it giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hillary and Illinois politicians. I have to read about IPA fraud in the Miami Herald and New York Times. Is your media dead or corrupt?

  14. - phocion - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 9:20 am:

    The Kelly King Dibble is not a stretch at all. After working for Rezko, she was appointed to head the Illinois Housing Development Authority. IHDA doles out tax credits and subsidies to low income housing developers. Obama and Allison did plenty of work to get these deals done - and having a friend who can dole out millions in subsidies sure helps.

    But wordslinger is more on point. Rezko didn’t step up to the plate to help subsidize Obama’s home purchase unless he expected something in return - or received something already. Not wearing a tin foil hat - that’s how Chicago politics are played. The American public will have to decide for themselves whether there is any “there” there.

  15. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 9:56 am:

    Obama has been vetted as well as anyone out there! What do they want?

    OH! I see now!

    Listen - you can’t prove a negative. Obama is an empty box full of prose, so when he was vetted, it only took a moment compared to real presidential candidates with records to view and deals to sift through.

    If you vetted Obama as you would say Clinton or Biden, then you would be digging through his kindergarden art work, which we all know Hillary’s staff did.

    Barak has been vetted - nothing there because there is NOTHING THERE.

  16. - Old Elephant - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 10:06 am:

    While much of your defense of the local media is reasonably correct, to suggest that Lynn Sweet has been anything but a fawning groupie is ridiculous. Just because she’s followed her idol around for months, doesn’t mean she’s actually covering the campaign with anything remotely close to objectivity.

    But, more to the point — “Wordsmith” raises a good point. Has anyone wondered how it is that in a city of 3 million people, the Obamas and the Rezkos just happened to buy adjacent property on the same day?

  17. - archpundit - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 10:22 am:


    But wordslinger is more on point. Rezko didn’t step up to the plate to help subsidize Obama’s home purchase unless he expected something in return - or received something already. Not wearing a tin foil hat - that’s how Chicago politics are played. The American public will have to decide for themselves whether there is any “there” there.

    How is it is a subsidy if two plots of land were listed separately and both were sold for the high bids received?

  18. - IncrediblyDumberThanYouThink - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 11:01 am:

    The funniest part about the “Tony Buys a Lot” story is the victory lap the Blaggodiots did once it appeared. They want all hands to believe they leaked it. They want all to believe they were not the only ones bought by Tony.
    The local media has done a decent job, but now Tony goes to the national stage and everything gets repeated. Plus the G is all over IFA and IDHA and Tony’s pals there so who knows. Probably nothing new on Obama, but every new Tony story gets a reference.

  19. - Jon Shibley Fan - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 11:10 am:

    It ain’t words he’s slingin’.

    No one just comes up with that kind of research for the heck of it.

  20. - 42nd Ward Resident - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 11:36 am:

    Devils advocate:

    Rezko has received the same tenor and quantity of coverage as Whitewater over a similar time period in 1992.


  21. - Ellinoyed - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 12:32 pm:

    Interesting that you mention Whitewater, 42nd Ward. While there have been a lot of local stories about Obama’s Rezko ties (the house/lot deal is the big one, really, b/c no one in Chgo does something like that for nothing) it hasn’t yet taken hold nationally. Even w/ the relatively comprehensive local coverage, it’s never reached the tenor that the Clintons were subjected to w/ Whitewater & other largely manufactured scandals. He’s never been challenged, never subject to a tough race. That’s what makes people who follow national politics more closely than local politics uncomfortable about the “vetting” that’s been done on him. And he’s not reacted well when challenged - the tone he used w/ Hillary in the debate, even the way he spoke to former Trib writer Jeff Zeleny the other day shows he’s impatient with, b/c he’s not used to, being challenged on anything he says or does.

  22. - Vole - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 1:05 pm:

    When the Rezko/Obama real estate deal first surfaced the national left wing blogs would have none of it, characterizing all of it as a smear campaign waged by Tribune reporters — a right wing conspiracy of sorts. It is interesting that Obama has not adopted this defense himself, like the Clintons have done on several occasions. I guess he can use the massive-Clinton-conspiracy defense now instead of just clearing up any lingering questions which may nag him through the rest of the primary.

  23. - A Citizen - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 1:25 pm:

    I am unclear on the house deal - I seem to remember that Obama bought it for 300,000 below asking/market price. Is that correct or am I misremembering? Also who was the Dr. previous owner? Anything of interest there? The adjacent lot deal is fairly clear.

  24. - Howard - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 2:11 pm:

    VanillaMan - “Listen - you can’t prove a negative. Obama is an empty box full of prose, so when he was vetted, it only took a moment compared to real presidential candidates with records to view and deals to sift through.”

    You’re kidding, right? Obama has a longer voting record (11 years) than Hillary Clinton (7 years) or John Edwards (6 years). People need to stop buying this “more years of experience” crap that Hillary is selling.

  25. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 5:37 pm:

    Ellinoyed,, I saw that video and didn’t think he was out of line with Zeleny. You just never go to press conferences. You want annoyed? Try hanging around a Blagojevich presser for two minutes. lol

  26. Pingback Politics: A free pass for Obama? Hardly … - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 6:07 pm:

    […] The pundits have been claiming that Barack Obama hasn’t been fully “vetted” by the press. Rich Miller looks at the facts and found that Obama’s home-state press has looked very deeply into his background, and so far they haven’t found much. No doubt that the Clinton crowd and right-wing radio will still spread this idea, because they assume that anyone with any success in politics has to be as dirty as they are. *** Politics […]

  27. Pingback Illinois Blogs Recap Rezko & Obama: Not Much There There « Illinois Reason - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 6:58 pm:

    […] CapFax’s In defense of the locals reviews the Illinois political media’s coverage of Sen. Obama and attempts by the Tribune, Sun-Times, etc. to find skeletons in his closet over the years. Of note: the Chicago Tribune discovered two instances of what might be of interest to those hoping to turn Tony Rezko into Obama’s Marc Rich or Norman Hsu. […]

  28. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jan 23, 08 @ 11:40 pm:

    We’re all a little too close to this story in Illinois, and we will be until Rezko’s trial is concluded. Today, in DC, the Post’s Dana Milbank gave Clinton 2 Pincochios for her mischaracterization of le affair Rezko (that means she was not Gepetto-like in her truthiness).

    If Sen. Clinton wants to debate legal billing for questionable clients, I say let her speak about the Rose Law Firm. If she wants to debate questionable real estate deals, let’s rehash Whitewater. She, and her husband, ought to quit the rock-throwing while they’re behind. And they should knock off the distortions while they’re at it.

    Rezko is legitimate, and Obama will have to answer the questions. I think he has, and will continue to do so, without anything resulting from it other than partisan innuendo and the win-at-all-costs style she and the former President are perfecting.

    By the way, why wasn’t President Clinton this aggressive on John Kerry’s behalf? Where the hell was he when the Rove/Bush machine was decimating the Democratic nominee in 2004? And why would he hold back then? Hmmm.

    Sen. Clinton’s only chance is to tear Obama down. That’s what Obama signed up for when he ran against her, so he knew what he was in for.
    Rich is right, the local reporters have been covering this straight, and well.

    The Clintons and Bill Baar will continue to make this the focus of the race because the truth doesn’t serve their purposes.

  29. - Gene L - Thursday, Jan 24, 08 @ 4:48 pm:

    The comments on this blog show the (somewhat understandable) ignorance of the general public regarding the Rezko matter.

    The details regarding the house (purchased in 2005) were reported in 2006! Almost two years ago!

    In a a nutshell, there were no actual ethical violations, but Senator Obama admitted that it was a “boneheaded” mistake because it created the appearance of possible impropriety.

    The house had an initial LIST price of well over a million dollars, and as everyone knows, the housing market was already falling in 2005. So a purchase price of $300K less than LIST price was actually reasonable, and the best bid the seller had.

    The seller owned two adjoining lots, and sold the other lot to Rezko, who sold a small piece of that lot to Senator Obama. As Senator Obama stated, this was a dumb move, because it created the appearance of impropriety, but there was nothing strictly unethical about it.

  30. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 24, 08 @ 4:51 pm:

    Gene L, I disagree with that and I’ll explain tomorrow why.

  31. Pingback Obama’s (not really) free media pass « Illinois Reason - Wednesday, Feb 27, 08 @ 1:47 pm:

    […] For years, the Trib and Sun-Times have been pouring over Obama’s legislative records, his donor forms, and even the real estate records on his home purchase in the hopes of finding something dire regarding Rod Blagojevich’s friend, Tony Rezko. But there’s no there there (and I’ll be the first to eat crow if something is ever found). […]

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