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Fix Picks: Edwards and Obama Under the Microscope

In the newspaper business there are stories and then there are STORIES.

Many daily pieces simply catalog an event. In political journalism that may mean covering a speech given by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or a new energy plan laid out by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

But some stories have the potential for a much larger impact -- identifying major themes or uncovering unknown information. Two such stories ran this week and they are our Fix Picks. (For previous Picks, click here.)

The first is the leadoff to a two-part series by Chicago Sun-Times reporter Tim Novak. It offers an incredibly detailed look at indicted Chicago developer Tony Rezko and his ties to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

In the first installment Novak writes that "Obama....took campaign donations from Rezko even as Rezko's low-income housing empire was collapsing, leaving many African American families with problems -- including squalid living conditions, vacant apartments, lack of heat, squatters and drug dealers." Youch.

The story greatly expands on what is known about the relationship between Obama and Rezko and goes beyond the previous stories about a single real-estate deal, which Obama has acknowledged was "boneheaded" and a "mistake."

(The second installment, which is also worth reading, focuses almost exclusively on Rezko and his work since the 1980s to win city contracts for his company, Rezmar Corp.)

Our other Fix Pick story, which ran in the Washington Post earlier this week, examined former Sen. John Edwards's connections to a New York-based hedge fund that was the single largest source of company contributions to his presidential campaign in the first three months of 2007.

Edwards was hired as an adviser to the Fortress Investment Group in October 2005 and severed the relationship in December 2006 when he formally became a candidate for president. Although Edwards has decried corporations who use offshore tax shelters, Fortress itself was incorporated in the Cayman Islands -- a move "enabling its partners and foreign investors to defer or avoid paying U.S. taxes," write John Solomon and Alec MacGillis.

Both of these stories have the potential to play into larger ideas about the candidates. Is Obama, who has risen to national prominence with pledges of reforming and renewing politics, really just another pay-to-play politician? Can Edwards, a multimillionaire, be a true voice for the poor and working people?

We're not suggesting either story definitively answers either question. They don't. But they do raise them in a way that creates the possibility these stories will have an impact for days and weeks to come. Read them both. And feel free to offer your thoughts on them in the comments section below.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 24, 2007; 4:05 PM ET
Categories:  Fix Picks  
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Next: Parsing the Polls: How Much Does Corruption Count?

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