Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama: I Toured Home With Rezko

From Chicago Tribune by David Jackson and Bob Secter on Februry 19, 2008: "Before he bought his South Side mansion in 2005, Sen. Barack Obama took his friend and fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko on a tour of the premises to make sure it was a good deal, Obama's campaign revealed Monday.

Weeks after saying he'd answered all questions about his controversial dealings with the now-indicted Rezko, Obama released new details about their purchase of adjacent lots from the same seller on the same day. But the disclosures by Obama's presidential campaign left unanswered questions and raised new ones.

Obama was able to buy the house for $300,000 less than the listed price while Rezko, in his wife's name, paid the full $625,000 asking price for an undeveloped side lot.
On Monday, Obama's campaign gave Bloomberg news service e-mails from the sellers, who reportedly said Obama's $1.65 million bid "was the best offer" and that they didn't cut their asking price because Rezko bought the adjacent yard.

The campaign said Obama and his wife started at $1.3 million and upped their offer twice over 10 days. According to the campaign, the sellers confirmed they "did not offer or give the Obamas a 'discount' on the house price on the basis of or in relation to the price offered and accepted on the lot."

Obama has been reticent to discuss Rezko since the Tribune in 2006 revealed their property transactions. He has called their financial dealings "boneheaded" because, at the time, Rezko was reported to be under grand jury investigation. Rezko is set to go on trial next month on corruption and fraud charges.

The campaign declined to share the sellers' e-mails with the Tribune or elaborate on the Bloomberg story. Spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement: "Despite the many extensive investigations into these questions and the numerous attacks we have weathered from the [ Hillary] Clinton campaign, the resounding conclusion has been that the transaction was completely aboveboard."

It's not clear why Obama had not previously divulged Rezko's tour of the house with him. In 2006, he told the Tribune he recalled talking to Rezko and his wife "either at an event or some conversation we had where they mentioned to me that they either knew the property or knew the developer or something like that.

"I remember asking Tony, 'What do you think of the property?' And he was familiar with [the area]. He's been a longtime developer there."

Obama also said: "He thought it was a good house. And I said, 'I'm looking at putting in a bid on it.' And from that point on I just worked through my real estate broker."

After they bought the parcels, Obama and Rezko entered a series of personal financial arrangements to redivide and improve the lots.