The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


In Rezko Arrest, an Echo of Hsu?

By Matthew Mosk
Is Antoin "Tony" Rezko the new Norman Hsu?

There are certainly shades of that other campaign bundler scandal, which involved the discovery that Hsu, a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, had been a fugitive from justice for the prior 15 years. But they are mostly surface-level similarities.

The most notable of those came today, when Rezko, a longtime bundler for Barack Obama, was arrested early this morning at his Wilmette, Ill., home by federal agents on an alleged bond violation.

The Tribune reported that federal investigators had in recent weeks become concerned about the movement of some of his finances.

Count among the similarities between Rezko and Hsu that both used prolific fundraising to get close to politicians. Both have been accused in federal indictments of facilitating straw donations -- the illegal practice of reimbursing others for the political contributions they make. And both now await trials on other federal corruption charges at a most politically inopportune time for their best-known beneficiaries.

In Hsu's case, he has been accused of swindling investors out of more than $40 million in a Ponzi scheme. Attention on Hsu peaked with his arrest on the old fraud charges, and then his short-lived dash for freedom aboard a cross-country Amtrak train.

Hsu had raised more than $800,000 for Clinton's bid, making him one of her top bundlers.

Rezko is scheduled to stand trial on corruption charges in less than a month related to allegations that he used the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board and the state's Teachers Retirement System Board to extort kickbacks. Rezko had been out on bail after pleading not guilty.

Rezko's closest ties were to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But he has also raised significant amounts for Obama. By the estimates of two separate reviews, one by the L.A. Times and the other by ABC News, Rezko had raised as much as $200,000 for Obama over his whole career.

Just as Clinton returned the Hsu-related money, Obama has returned more than $80,000 in Rezko related funds, and pledged Sunday to return more if he finds more money with Rezko ties.

Posted at 2:53 PM ET on Jan 28, 2008
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The tenor of most of these comments, which combine ignorance, hatred and incredibly simplistic analysis (what's the most extreme conclusion I can jump to, regardless of the quality or quantity of evidence?) shows just how much damage Karl Rove's style of politics has done to the quality of our debates. Its almost as bad on the Left as it is on the Right.

The hilarious thing about most of the points being made (mostly by Hillary supporters -- w help from a few conservative pals) is that they judge Obama (Hillary) by a standard they would never apply to their own candidate.

If you're in Illinois politics and all folks can pin on you is a single association with a person who has apparently been caught in a pay for play scheme, then you're pretty damn clean.

But more to the point: for all those who are yelping about Obama getting a pal to sell him some property at a market rate so he can have more space for his daughters to play, are you REALLY suggesting that somehow this makes Obama, on balance, LESS honest, transparent, and corrupt than Hillary? Or Bush (for the cons who are piling on)?

I think this is what Obama has been talking about, when he condemns the "old politics", which is about: Disqualify your opponent on moral grounds before he or she can say anything; Get people thinking dichotomously, so that any flaw in the armour becomes evidence of deep hypocrisy or worse; assume the worst motives and intentions and obfuscate any mitigating counterpoints. The Clintons know this politics well because it was done to them.

Don't get me wrong: Its totally legit to consider questions of character and judgment in presidential candidates. Indeed, its vital. But why is it so hard for some to grasp that its in the BALANCE of good pts and bad pts that these judgments should be made, not whether or not they are pure as driven snow?

Just as I felt the Whitewater deal was an overblown case that revealed some flaws about Bill Clinton, so too do I think the Rezko issue is being overblown (esp by many of the commenters), but also illustrates that Obama too has flaws.

Either candidate will be a vast improvement on ethical and intellectual and ideological grounds over Bush. But the comments above illustrate that Obama's got his finger on the right issues and themes. If people don't cut all this condemnation crap, progressives will never be able to make the big changes our country needs to make. To me, its not about Hillary being the Devil; its simply about Obama having the right gifts for these times.


Posted by: e-lock | January 29, 2008 5:56 AM

South Carolina: Obama is not ready to be Commander in Chief

White voters are the mystery and ultimate outcome is unpredictable. But there is an interesting statistics from SC:

Obama overall vote: 54%
Obama as C-in-C / Beating Republican: 46/48
Clinton overall vote: 27%
Clinton as C-in-C/ Beating Republican: 35/36

Therefore, a significant part of the voter in SC = (54-47)+(36-27)= 16% last night thought Obama was not ready to be commander in chief but Clinton is ready. But they voted for him for other reason. I know you are not an opinion person, but it does allow opportunity to try a hypothesis. RCP average showed Obama winning by 12%, but he ended up with 27% margin. Probably these "white" voters knew the right candidate, but did not like the tone or at least what the media projected or Hillary simply not spending time in SC ticked them. If this chunk is white, it will be devastating for Obama and Obama is the half "black candidate" or half white depending on what suites him on a day.

Posted by: SeedofChange | January 29, 2008 5:44 AM,CST-NWS-rez23.article

"Over the years, REZKO, Mahru, their wives and businesses have given more than $50,000 TO OBAMA'S CAMPAIGN FUNDS, records show. And REZKO HAS HELPED RAISE MILLIONS MORE.

REZKO WAS AMONG THE PEOPLE OBAMA APPOINTED TO SERVE ON HIS U.S. SENATE CAMPAIGN FINANCE COMMITTEE, the Sun-Times reported in 2003. The committee raised more than $14 million, according to Federal Election Commission records, helping send Obama to Washington in 2004.

As a U.S. senator, Obama grew closer to Rezko.

Two years ago, Obama bought a mansion on the South Side, in the Kenwood neighborhood, from a doctor. On the same day, Rezko's wife, Rita Rezko, bought the vacant lot next door from the same seller. The doctor had listed the properties for sale together. He sold the house to Obama for $300,000 below the asking price. The doctor got his asking price on the lot from Rezko's wife.

Last year, Rita Rezko sold a strip of that vacant lot to Obama for $104,500 -- a deal Obama later apologized for, acknowledging that PEOPLE MIGHT THINK he got a favor from Rezko."

Posted by: SeedofChange | January 29, 2008 5:41 AM

From the Chicago Tribune:

"But when Rezko pushed for passage in Springfield of a major gambling measure, Obama vocally opposed it."

Posted by: dailyfare | January 29, 2008 12:05 AM

From the Chicago Tribune:

"But when Rezko pushed for passage in Springfield of a major gambling measure, Obama vocally opposed it."

Posted by: dailyfare | January 29, 2008 12:05 AM

Hillary supporters.. u r gr8 ambassadors for your candidate. U r rude, angry and obnoxious. When people read these comments and see all the hate you guys spew and the response of tolerance and love by my fellow obaminites, the choice will be clear. Thank you.

trisha2 speaks of "Obama's ignorant cult of followers"

judy_harper proudly proclaims: "I would vote for him even if he were polka dotted!" - Really Judy?

hank says "This deal shows how STUPID Obama really is"

Posted by: brown.damian | January 28, 2008 11:54 PM

First of all, Resko has much MORE to do with Obama than fundraising. He helped him purchased his mansion and his wife bought the adjacent piece of land attached to the house!! Obama raised money for Rezko and Rezko donated money to Obama's senate campaign when his tenants were FREEZING in their homes because Rezko did not provide heat or repairs to them!!

Rezko is a BIG ISSUE with regard to Obama. The Clintons did not have a 20 year friendship with Hsu. But Obama and Rezko have had a 20 year relationship!!

Posted by: AlwaysforHillary | January 28, 2008 10:08 PM

Prior to South Carolina, Hillary would have appeared to be a "Hsu-in" for the Democratic nomination. However, since Obama has mounted more than a creditable challenge to her ambitions, all of the daggers are out.

As the Bush DOJ has a lot of hold-overs from the Clinton administration, I don't find it surprising that some of them may have swooped in on this Razko guy.

My opinion is that the Democratic Party is going to go through some pretty intense internecine warfare over the next few months.

Finally, I would be willing to bet that if Hillary doesn't get to be President, she and Bill will divorce within a year.

Posted by: thomas43615 | January 28, 2008 9:17 PM

Hsu was a fundraser for HRC, but they don't have the personal relationship and history like Obama and Rezko. Rezko was on Obama's financial committe, organized party for him... when Obama "cannot afford to" buy the house with the adject space, he thought of Rezko... then Rezko was "interested" and bought the part to make the deal through, even when everyone knew he was already under investigation. Why Obama ignored or didn't know? Why Obama said they have no much relationship? Obama has returned Rezko's money twice, but it is reported he might still have quite some. So calling Rezko Arrest as an Echo of Hsu is very misleading.

Posted by: yudong2 | January 28, 2008 9:16 PM

I am so sick of watching CNN FOX and MSNBC and their obsession with Barack Hussein Obama for the purpose of derailing the only woman candidate.

They may use Hillary as the culprit but this is deeper then their hatred for her.

She is A WOMAN and deserves the same historical coverage as a Black man running for office.

Yes i can turn the channel but why should i have to?

I would like to hear about all the candidates not just the one the media has chosen. If i feel this way, i am sure i am not alone.

This is the most unfair race i have ever seen. I have lost all respect for members of the media i ordinarily tune it to.

Rezko is Obama's problem, stop spinning it to clinton.

If you want to bring the dirt out on her bring it but GIVE REZKO TO OBAMA and stop trying to blame Clinton because Obama screwed up with him.

Posted by: fballfn | January 28, 2008 9:01 PM

do any of you even know how campaign fundraising works? obama doesn't actually handle the money. you have to realize how large a project it is to coordinate a fundraising scheme... a very complicated matter with a lot of donors. and kurtrk.... thank you for your comment. i am glad to see that there are feminists out there that can see through hillary... she can't even deliver her own concession speech. and as for the moron who compared obama to hitler... seriously, i want to hear your critical historical take on world war two. lay it out for me. what the ______ do you know? let me guess, you actually think israel has not been systematically practicing genocide against palestinians since world war two....? and i bet you're one of those people that thinks hillary actually answers the questions she's been presented with. she's the most scripted candidate of them all.

Posted by: pascaltrien | January 28, 2008 8:58 PM

The single most fascinating thing about the Clinton vs Obama race is that I get a chance to see Democrats, and most especially their supporters, as rude, obnoxious and insulting to each other as they are to conservatives the rest of the time. You cannot buy entertainment this good folks. By the way I am a conservative Independent that will probably vote for Obama.

Posted by: rjh | January 28, 2008 7:28 PM

The single most fascinating thing about the Clinton vs Obama race is that I get a chance to see Democrats, and most especially their supporters, as rude, obnoxious and insulting to each other as they are to conservatives the rest of the time. You cannot buy entertainment this good folks. By the way I am a conservative Independent that will probably vote for Obama.

Posted by: rjh | January 28, 2008 7:24 PM

Obama talks about a "NEW KIND OF POLITICS", but if you look into his first run for the State Senate you'll see just hardball old style politics. Just Google "Obama first run for state senate" and you can read all about it in the Chicago Tribune. He won the DEM primary by getting the other 3 DEMS removed from the primary ballot, that was his first win. Obama has a 17 year relationship with Tony Rezko (google him too) and if you've read about the house deal you will think it's shady too. This deal shows how STUPID Obama really is, everyone in the Chicago area knew Rezko was under investigation by the Feds yet he gets Rezko to help him buy his dream house that he really couldn't afford. With Rezko in jail and the Republican Justice Dept running the case I'm wonder how long it will take Rezko to be offered a deal to Rat out all his political partners

Posted by: hank48188 | January 28, 2008 6:40 PM

Msophia, you seem totally amazed by the fact that Obama's campaign can fund multiple offices in states, but it's not that hard to see how, when you look at the incredible numbers of donors overall (well over 500,000 individual donors, and counting) that have given money--as well as volunteer hours--to the campaign because they are inspired, by the candidate, and by the hope for change that he represents.

Posted by: arsenauj | January 28, 2008 5:22 PM

I agree Judy! if this Resko tie had been to anyone else, we'd be reading different headlines. The "photo with the Clintons" is a stretch, even for the Obama camp.
Somehow, with the media's blessing, Obama shakes off the corrupt connection. I think some digging, ok, surface scratching will turn up some answers to some questions I know I have about Obama.
How does a Jr. Senator, who professes to have been doing civil rights work for years in the Chicago community (we know that is a poor paying field, ok, real civil rights people are volunteers). His campaign is the most amazing, well run machine I have ever seen. Seriously, I was stunned when I first saw it. Huge kuddos to someone! But.... back to the Senator Obama. Where does the money come from to have offices & headquarters, multiples in every state? You have to wonder when you see he has 2+ offices in Utah., Alaska, WV, places you don't see many candidates ABLE to fund this sort of coverage. I do not mean the grassroots events & shops set up by supporters. I mean the ones they control & pay for.
I see strings, I just can't see who they are connected to.
But, hope springs eternal & I think if we all keep digging & shoving this facade aside, the truth is out there. I want to know the truth about anyone I vote to the most powerful job in the free world.
I'd think Obama's supporters would be the first to call for that too. It would be in accordance with his own "testifying" about his brand of CHANGE. No more dirty Washington ( he has a senate office by satelite? otherwise he's part of the madness he preaches about)insider stuff. Oh, wait, that's for everyone else as he happily takes endorsements & support from old time Politacial Icons.
Anything wrong with this picture?

Posted by: msophia | January 28, 2008 5:03 PM

Are you people really that uninformed, or are you being deliberately misleading? What specifically do you claim Obama did illegally? He bought a section of land from Rezko at fair market value (as has been reported repeatedly) to enlarge his yard for his daughters. No houses, no bribes, no favors, NOTHING illegal. Yet since Rezko has been indicted for matters not relevant to Obama, he has elected to return any contributions linked to Rezko in any way. How this even remotely compares to the Clintons' dealings is baloney.

Oh and Judy, nice "I'm not a racist, but..." argument. What experience does Hillary have? Sorry, Bill's doesn't count. I am a middle-aged, white woman and a feminist. It is the antithesis of feminism to vote for a woman based on her husband's credentials and political machine.

Posted by: kurtrk | January 28, 2008 4:43 PM

All the bickering aside, has Obama demonstrated his ability to lead the United States? NO. He has a clever speech writer but he has no experience. Period. He is also Rezko tainted. Obama is a wealthy black man running for the highest office on earth. He uses the race issue to his advantage by asking other blacks to vote a black ticket. Am I missing something here? Experience? Is he capable? No. He talks a good talk but he is too inexperienced to tackle the hard issues that face the US. He carries too much "historical" baggage and will have to deal with all that history. Americans are not ready for that. If he had the experience and demonstrated to me he could make hard choices, and I was convinced he was an honest man (he isn't) and could put ALL Americans first, I would vote for him even if he were polka dotted! And I do not want a Clinton/Obama ticket.

Posted by: judy_harper | January 28, 2008 4:32 PM

Headline: "In Rezko Arrest, an Echo of Hsu?"
By Matthew Mosk

Body copy: "There are certainly shades of the 2008 presidential campaign's bundler scandal, [b]ut they are mostly surface-level similarities."

What a misleading headline. When did you stop beating your wife, Mr. Mosk?

Posted by: edwcorey | January 28, 2008 4:20 PM

did Obama pay gift taxes on the 300K gift arising out of the house deal? Think about what the republicans did with whitewater (a land deal where the clintons lost about $50K) and then think about what will happen to Obama - this is going to end up being fatal to his campaign. Maybe the poltiics of "hope" means "I hope you buy me a house"

Posted by: tonysmith | January 28, 2008 3:57 PM

To be fair, I think there's a picture floating around of Hillary and Bill Clinton with Rezko as well ; )

Posted by: JakeD | January 28, 2008 3:39 PM

That's real cute.

I'm glad that everyone neglects to mention the fact that B.O. blatantly lied about his connections to Rezko at the SC debate. 5 hours? Church group?

I can't wait until after Feb. 5 when he realizes that Hillary is the clear winner, and that he is a 2 hit wonder.

But of course, Obama's ignorant cult of followers who are blinded by the most ridiculous rhetoric since Hitler, won't stop chugging the koolaid long enough to stop and listen and actually look at the issues.

The race card is irrelevant; it was B.O. who pushed it, him and his wife.

Did anyone not read the NY TIMES article spotlighting B.O.'s speechwriter??????? Yeah, a clever young man who writes "a little MLK, a little JFK and RFK." Pathetic.

Posted by: trisha2 | January 28, 2008 3:33 PM

Will Obama "return" his house too?

Posted by: JakeD | January 28, 2008 3:19 PM

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