Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Rezko found guilty on 16 of 24 counts - Will start serving time immediately

"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.” Chicago Tribune editorial, 1/27/08"

Breakdown of Counts
Guilty on 12 of 15 counts mail/wire fraud
Not Guilty on 1 count attempted extortion
Guilty on 2 of 6 counts corrupt solicitation
Guilty on 2 counts money laundering

Obama called Tony Rezko his "political mentor"

Obama's business acquaintance and long time ally Tony Rezko has been found guilty on 16 counts of corruption. Political fundraiser Antoin 'Tony' Rezko has surrendered to authorities. ABC7 Chicago News

Antoin Rezko, a once powerful fund-raiser who helped propel the career of Senator Barack Obama, was found guilty Wednesday by a federal jury of 16 criminal counts, including money laundering and aiding and abetting bribery in a scheme that touched the highest levels of the administration of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois.

Mr. Rezko, a friend and adviser to Mr. Blagojevich, as well as one of his top fund-raisers, had been accused of using his influence to corrupt two state boards in a scheme to get millions of dollars in kickbacks from businesses that sought state investments or regulatory approval. Prosecutors described Mr. Rezko as “the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings.”

Prosecutors said Mr. Rezko used his political clout to benefit himself and his friends at the expense of the people of Illinois. He agreed to a plan to steer teacher pension investments to firms that would provide kickbacks, and he pushed a health board to approve a new hospital so he could get a cut from a contractor’s bribe, they said. Taken together, prosecutors said, Mr. Rezko stood to gain at least $3.9 million.

NY Times

Obama wrote letters to local officials on behalf of a project controlled by indicted real-estate dealmaker Tony Rezko, the Chicago Sun-Times' Tim Novak reports. "The letters appear to contradict a statement last December from Obama, who told the Chicago Tribune that, in all the years he's known Rezko, 'I've never done any favors for him.'" (The Obama camp is casting it as an attempt to increase housing for seniors.) Media Matters deciphers (part) of this relationship between Tony Rezko and Barack Obama.

From the Herald Tribune
An e-mail message made public in the fraud trial of Antoin Rezko, a businessman and political contributor, brought attention to Senator Barack Obama's role in discussions involving a state health planning board that Rezko is accused of improperly influencing. The message indicated that Obama and other top Illinois politicians consulted in 2003 on legislation to keep the board, which approved the construction of health facilities, from expiring under sunset provisions in state law.

The vaguely worded message released Monday also seemed to raise the possibility that Obama, who at the time was chairman of the Illinois Senate's health committee, had been involved in recommending candidates for the board.

Rezko is accused of using his influence in state government to stack the board with associates, including some who made political contributions to Obama and other top Illinois politicians, and of seeking a bribe on a hospital project.

Campaign finance records show that at least three Rezko associates who sat on the hospital board made substantial donations to Blagojevich and to Obama in 2003 and 2004.

Obama surfaces in Rekzo's federal corruption case
Obama is not named in the Dec. 21 court document. But a source familiar with the case confirmed that Obama is the unnamed “political candidate” referred to in a section of the document that accuses Rezko of orchestrating a scheme in which a firm hired to handle state teacher pension investments first had to pay $250,000 in “sham” finder’s fees. From that money, $10,000 was donated to Obama’s successful run for the Senate in the name of a Rezko business associate, according to the court filing and the source.

Rezko, who was part of Obama’s senatorial finance committee, also is accused of directing “at least one other individual” to donate money to Obama and then reimbursing that individual — in possible violation of federal election law.

Obama donated more than $44,000 in Rezko-linked contributions to charity last year, including the $10,000 donation mentioned in the court filing.

That money was donated to Obama by Joseph Aramanda, a Glenview businessman and Rezko associate who, sources have said, is the “Individual D” prosecutors say received the $250,000 in finder’s fees demanded by Rezko. Individual D did nothing to earn those fees, according to prosecutors.

The $10,000 contribution to Obama was given in Aramanda’s name on March 5, 2004, records show. While Obama’s camp has said the senator did not know Aramanda, Obama’s office hired Aramanda’s son as an intern in 2005, at Rezko’s urging…

Rezko is one of Obama’s earliest political patrons

ABC News Report from this past February:

NBC Chicago reports on Rezko housing problem in Obama's district


In an article issued late this evening at the Chicago Tribune a statement from Barack Obama says he's, "saddened by the verdict". So how do I interpret that? His friend and business associate of "decades" is found guilty on 16 counts of blatant corruption, but he's saddened they found him guilty? he's saddened Tony Rezko has to serve time as punishment?
"Rezko's $8 million bond was revoked and he was taken into federal custody after the verdict in the two-month trial that exposed a corrupt culture of payoffs and campaign finance abuses plaguing Illinois politics."

"U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said the verdict represented "an antidote to the poison of corruption" that trial testimony alleged included the fixing of state boards that controlled a $40 billion pension fund and made major decisions about million-dollar hospital construction."

"Rezko's conviction also intensifies the spotlight on his relationship with Obama. They have known each other for decades and Obama calculates that Rezko has raised $250,000 for his Senate and legislative campaigns."

"His conviction was a stunning victory for federal prosecutors who accused him of plotting with admitted political fixer Stuart Levine to squeeze payoffs out of money management firms that sought to invest the assets of the $40 billion state Teachers Retirement System."

"Levine was a bizarre witness by any yardstick. He freely admitted to years of attending marathon drug parties in a suburban hotel with male companions and taking large doses of cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, kaetamine, and other drugs, frequently washed down with shots of vodka."
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