Rezko Might Be Cooperating With Feds
Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the Chicago political influence peddler whose relationship with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama has been highlighted by Obama's political opponents, might be helping the government mount a corruption case against the state's governor.
Rezko, 53, the one-time real-estate developer and fast-food entrepreneur, was convicted in June of mail fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering after prosecutors say he tried to get $7 million in bribes from a contractor to do business in Illinois.
Rezko, who was a key adviser in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration, also raised money for Obama's Illinois state campaigns and [bought an adjacent property near the senator's Chicago mansion]. Since Rezko's criminal case, Obama has donated $159,000 of Rezko-connected contributions to charity.
The Chicago Tribune is now reporting that four separate attorneys in Illinois have said Rezko is talking to federal investigators, a development that "has sent ripples through a tight circle of prominent defense attorneys who represent dozens of potential witnesses and targets in the wide-ranging probe."
Rezko's cooperation in the ongoing case against Blagojevich and his wife would give investigators access to someone the Tribune described as the "ultimate political insider at the center of a pervasive pay-to-play scheme."
In court filings, Rezko said he had been approached by prosecutors several times before his trial and was asked repeatedly about Blagojevich and Obama.
[Added:] Later, Rezko' attorney, Joseph Duffy, said that statement was misleading. 'I'm not aware of any impropriety related to Rezko and Obama,' Duffy said. 'At no point has the government ever asked me a single question about Obama, or any wrongdoing involving Rezko and Obama,'" The Tribune reported.
(Obama's relationship with Rezko was lampooned during the most recent episode of "Saturday Night Live," with the John McCain character criticizing Obama's support for a $8.1 million earmark for the "Tony Rezko hush fund." Obama's character fired back: ""Sen. McCain, you know I withdrew that initiative after he began cooperating with federal authorities.")
By Derek Kravitz |
September 30, 2008; 3:04 PM ET
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