Obama continues to obfuscate and equivocate in the wake of today’s arrest of Antion “Tony” Rezko, the indicted slumlord who is one of Obama’s main political patrons. I quote ABC News:
Rezko has ties to presidential candidate Barack Obama. The senator says he had no indication of any problems with Rezko when he accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from him.
So Obama tells ABC News he had no indication of Rezko’s mounting problems when he accepted over $180,000 from the notorious kickback artist. But in April 2007 he stated that is was “possible” his state Senate office received complaints from Rezko’s tenants. I quote the Chicago Tribune:
Obama said in the interview Monday that he was unaware of the scope of properties owned by Rezmar or the problems surrounding them. He said none of the affected residents personally sought his help and that aides at his state Senate district office did not recall any inquiries. Still, he said it was “possible” that during his tenure in the legislature that a constituent may have written or called his office “saying, ‘We’re in a building, and we’re unhappy with the service here.'”Such problems, he said, would normally be brought to the attention of an alderman or the city’s Housing Department. “Had I known that there were buildings that were in deteriorating or poor condition, that certainly would have given me pause. But I didn’t” know, Obama said.
He also maintained during the interview that is the subject of the Chicago Tribune article I cite that he never intervened on behalf of Rezko’s tenement empire.
Asked if he had intervened on behalf of Rezko or Rezmar with any government entity, Obama replied, “Never. No.”
“Never[,] no:” his answer could not be more unequivocal. And yet, he did serve as an advocate for Rezko when he penned letters on his Illinois state Senate letterhead for New Kenwood, LLC, an enterprise Rezko jointly owned with Obama’s former boss Allison Davis. Did he or did he not intervene of Rezko’s behalf? And did Obama’s state Senate office receive complaints from constituents who were Rezko’s tenants, or was it is only “possible” that these constituents voiced their concerns to Obama’s state Senate staff? Although the evidence I reproduce provides the real answer to the first question, the second question will remain unresolved, for Obama prevaricated when confronted with the probing questions of the Chicago Tribune’s inquisitive reporter. Having had uttered one falsehood during the interview, it is “possible” Obama dissembled when asked about constituents’ complaints about Rezko’s properties. But even if Obama were honest with the reporter, it is only “possible” that his office fielded Rezko’s questions. And it was indeed “possible” that his office received complaints both from Rezko’s tenants and from the neighbors of Rezko’s various properties. It is also possible Obama was aware of Rezko’s legal and financial woes when he accepted Rezko’s many political donations. Let us begin with a few facts the Chicago Sun-Times didactically outlines for students of the Rezko scandal.
4. In 1995, Obama began campaigning for a seat in the Illinois Senate. Among his earliest supporters: Rezko. Two Rezko companies donated a total of $2,000. Obama was elected in 1996 — representing a district that included 11 of Rezko’s 30 low-income housing projects.5. Rezko’s low-income housing empire began crumbling in 2001, when his company stopped making mortgage payments on the old nursing home that had been converted into apartments. The state foreclosed on the building — which was in Obama’s Illinois Senate district.6. In 2003, Obama announced he was running for the U.S. Senate, and Rezko — a member of his campaign finance committee — held a lavish fund-raiser June 27, 2003, at his Wilmette mansion.
And let us listen to constituents of Obama who resided in Rezko’s tenements. Here is Joann Larkins, a resident of a dilapidated Rezko structure just eight blocks from the palatial mansion Obama jointly purchased with Rezko:
Mrs Larkins, 51, lives just seven city blocks away, in a district where posters advertise “dirt cheap properties” and “foreclosure advice”. She moved there almost a decade ago, taking a subsidised apartment with her 20-year-old daughter and one-year-old grandson in a building that had fallen into neglect when run by Mr Rezko.The family boiled water on the stove and draped plastic sheeting across the windows in an effort to keep warm during the city’s bitter winters, as the heating was not working. Rubbish piled up uncollected and repeated requests for basic repairs were ignored.”It was a terrible place to live: there were a lot of drug dealers and people fighting and getting shot,” Mrs Larkins, a widow who receives invalidity benefit, told The Sunday Telegraph.”The owners never took any interest in the place; they just wanted the rent money. We had to call the city just to get the garbage collected.”The 44-apartment complex was one of 30 low-income housing projects run by Mr Rezko and his partners with funds from the city during the 1990s. By early this decade, many were boarded up as bills and mortgage payments went unpaid, but Mr Rezko moved into the fast-food business, while tenants like the Larkins struggled with the legacy of his management.
Janet Jenkins, a neighbor of another Rezko property in Obama’s state Senate district, also witnessed squalor and crime:
Janet Jenkins witnessed the deterioration of one building that Rezmar co-developed with the Chicago Urban League a dozen years ago. Today, the 12-unit building at 62nd Street and Rhodes is boarded up. And she’s glad.”Oh, absolutely,” said Jenkins, 57, who lives a few doors south of the building. “That building has been a problem to this block for years.”We had numerous complaints. Drug selling. Prostitution. The whole nine yards. Filthy. Deplorable. Rats. Mice. Roaches. Urine. Feces. Name it.”
In one case City Hall was contacted, and in another an entire block of residents were up in arms over the the squalor and crime besieging another Rezko property. Surely Obama’s state Senate office never received notification of the problems besieging Rezko’s tenement empire from 1997-2004. Or perhaps he did. After all, he claims it is “possible” these constituents contacted his office.But even if his constituents never alerted his state Senate office to the squalid conditions of Rezko’s deteriorating structures, it is “possible” Obama’s political allies informed him of Rezko’s financial troubles. The testimony of Deputy Housing Commissioner Jack Markowski is particularly revealing in this respect. I quote the Chicago Sun-Times:
Rezmar’s financial problems became a concern to city officials in the summer of 1998 — six years after it first missed payments on city loans. Rezko and Mahru were seeking a $3.1 million loan in 1998 for what would be their final low-income housing project.Rezmar’s loan application apparently made no reference to financial problems, including a bank’s threat to foreclose on Rezmar’s first deal, the building at 46th and Drexel. This worried Jack Markowski, then the city’s first deputy housing commissioner, now commissioner.”For Rezmar, I’d want to see their 1997 computation since rumors are that they’re in bad shape,” Markowski wrote in a July 8, 1998, memo to his staff.Despite Markowski’s concerns, the Daley administration gave Rezmar a $3.1 million loan to help rehab 84 apartments.Asked about his 1998 memo, Markowski issued a statement last week saying the city gave Rezmar the loan because “credit references were positive and loans current.” And Markowski noted that others — First National Bank of Chicago and Apollo Housing Capital — invested in that project.That deal included three of the mayor’s top African-American allies: Bishop Arthur Brazier, Leon Finney Jr. and Allison Davis. Brazier and Finney ran the Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization, a not-for-profit group that was Rezmar’s partner in the project.Davis’ company is listed in state records as an investor in the deal, though the state said he didn’t end up investing in the deal. Davis said he had no recollection of investing in the deal. But one of his companies formed a partnership with Apollo and got a $130,000 fee on that deal, state records show.Davis and Finney are also members of the Chicago Plan Commission, appointed by Daley.
Notice that Allison Davis, Obama’s former boss and partner of New Kenwood, LLC, was heavily involved both in the suppression of Markowski’s reservations and in the deal Rezmar struck with City Hall. Also notice that Obama wrote a letter on behalf of New Kenwood, LLC, the same year rumors of Rezko’s problems were circulating in City Hall and in Chicago’s various political circles. This is also same year in which Obama performed legal work for Rezko at the law firm at which Davis was his former boss. If Obama’s constituents did not inform him of the crime and squalor surrounding Rezko’s underfinanced tenement empire, I am sure Allison Davis described the situation when she asked Obama to advocate for New Kenwood, LLC, on state Senate stationary in 1998.Rezko’s tenants were without heat in 1997; rumors on Rezko’s legal and financial woes were circulating in 1998; Obama performs legal and political work for Rezko and Davis in 1998; foreclosed buildings in Obama’s state Senate district were literally crumbling in 2001; Rezko holds fundraisers for Obama in 2003; Rezko serves as a campaign finance chair of Obama’s US Senate bid in 2003 and 2004: no wonder why columnists of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune find Obama’s equivocations on the possibility of his awareness of Rezko’s problems at the time when Rezko was coordinating lavish fundraisers for the Senator unconvincing. Here is the Chicago Tribune‘s reproving admonition of Obama:
Last week, Hillary Clinton attacked Obama for his association with alleged influence-peddler Tony Rezko. If Obama had dealt with the Rezko issue forthrightly long ago, it might rank in public memory with Clinton’s remarkable success in cattle futures.Instead, as we’ve said, Obama has been too self-exculpatory. His assertion in network TV interviews last week that nobody had indications Rezko was engaging in wrongdoing strains credulity: Tribune stories linked Rezko to questionable fundraising for Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2004 — more than a year before the adjacent home and property purchases by the Obamas and the Rezkos.One more time, Senator:You need to divulge all there is to know about that relationship. Until you do, the journalistic scrubbing and opposition research will intensify. You should have recognized Rezko as a political seducer of young talent.
Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times also desires an aboveboard discussion with the Illinois Senator on his relations with Antoin “Tony” Rezko, for she too views Obama’s recent statements with incredulity. I quote:
Obama has never agreed to an interview about Rezko, but after Clinton injected the name into the campaign on Monday, on Wednesday, ABC’s “Good Morning America’s” Diane Sawyer asked Obama about Rezko. Obama made it seem like he hardly knew Rezko — who was a friend, a client and a fund-raiser — and was clueless about Rezko’s potential criminal legal problems that had been reported by the Chicago press.
Because Obama has been anything but forthcoming when asked about his knowledge of and relation to Antoin “Tony” Rezko’s various legal and financial woes, I believe he must preside over a press conference wherein he will address all the remaining queries the press may have about the indicted slumlord who was also one of Obama’s main political patrons. Answers with the adjective “possible” will require further elaboration, and photographs of other politicians cannot be deployed in a vain attempt to create yet another media distraction. For Rezko, if I may quote the Chicago Tribune, “is Obama’s problem,” and it will remain his problem until the record is fully clarified.