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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.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 28, 2008; 2:53 PM ET
 
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