Obama Rezko lot purchases, Court records prove Obama lied about contact with Rezko and Rezko requests, Obama Rezko et al Chicago pay to play
“Why were portions of the motion to subpoena Obama by the Blagojevich defense team, damning to Obama, redacted?”…Citizen Wells
“Why did the Rezkos enter into an agreement to purchase the lot next to the Obama house and pay the asking price of $ 625,000 at a time when they were broke and heavily in debt?”…Citizen Wells
“I believe I’m more pristine on Rezko than him.”…Rod Blagojevich
My research, review and discussions regarding Obama’s involvement in Chicago pay to play are progressing. Yesterday I got a clarification from someone who was involved in one of the transactions. Before I proceed, I want to clarify the Obama Rezko relationship and Obama lies about it.
From TPM Muckraker March 3, 2008.
“The connection has dogged Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) ever since it was first reported in November of 2006. With Tony Rezko’s trial finally beginning this week, and with the trial expected to last for months, it will keep dogging him.
You know the general outline. In June of 2005, Obama bought a home in Chicago’s South Side. On the same day, Tony Rezko bought an adjoining lot, the house’s side yard. It was not an isolated association between the two. Rezko was a big-time fundraiser and supporter of Obama, who raised more than $150,000 for Obama’s state and federal campaigns over the span of nine years ($20,000 of that was from Rezko himself). Over the past 16 months, Obama has donated almost $160,000 of those Rezko-linked contributions to charity.
Rezko, a big-time real estate developer and mucky-muck in Illinois politics, was indicted in October of 2006 on fraud and extortion charges.
Although Obama’s longterm relationship with Rezko has gained plenty of scrutiny, the house purchase has understandably gotten the most. Given Rezko’s central role in Illinois’ influence-buying and cronyism scandal, suspicion is natural. Obama himself has called his subsequent purchase of a strip of the adjoining lot from Rezko “bone-headed.” It’s hard not to agree.
There is no sure evidence that the house deal was worse than bone-headed. Not that the question has been put to rest. A number of unanswered questions remain.
For instance, it’s unclear whether Rezko was actually doing a favor for Obama: whether Obama could not have bought the house otherwise or whether Obama derived a financial benefit from Rezko’s involvement in the deal. The main suspicion has been that Rezko’s purchase of the side yard at the seller’s asking price allowed Obama’s purchase of the house to go through since the seller insisted on closing both properties on the same day. But both Obama and Rezko have said that someone else had bid on the side yard, raising the bidding to the asking price. If that’s the case, then Obama could have bought the house without Rezko’s involvement. And Obama has said that his family has stayed off the side yard and never used it for family activities.
Obama has acknowleged, however, that Rezko’s likely motivation for buying the lot was to curry favor with him. Rezko reportedly admitted as much to his business associates. And as The New York Times reports today, Rezko was so heavily in debt at the time he purchased the lot that he did it under his wife’s name in order to protect it from creditors.
And then there’s the other big question, whether Obama ever did anything for Rezko in return for his purchase of the side yard or all those contributions. Obama has said that Rezko “never asked me for anything” and “I’ve never done any favors for him.” No substantial evidence has surfaced to contradict that claim. (The Chicago Sun-Times did dig up letters from Obama in 1998, some seven years before the house sale, urging Illinois and Chicago officials to provide funding for a Rezko company to build apartments for senior citizens, but both Obama and Rezko denied that Rezko had asked Obama to write the letters, and there’s no evidence to the contrary.)
As Rezko’s trial nears, you’re sure to hear the two names raised together again and again. And you’ll be hearing about that house purchase. So we’re laying it all out here. We’ve compiled the main details in our timeline of Rezko and Obama’s relationship here.
Recently, NBC News got a good aerial view of the Obama’s home and side lot, which is now owned by Michael Sreenan, a former business attorney of Rezko’s:
Back in 2004, the home’s owner put both parcels on the market. There was no fence between the two properties, since the undeveloped land served as the house’s side yard, but the properties were listed separately.
In January of 2005, the Obamas made three successive bids on the home, which had been listed at $1.95 million. After bids of $1.3 and then $1.5 million, the Obamas, through an agent, finally offered $1.65 million, a bid which the seller ultimately accepted. Obama has said that the house was on the market for a number of months and was overpriced. The seller, a doctor at the University of Chicago named Fredric Wondisford who has refused to speak to the media, has stated in an email released by the Obama campaign to Bloomberg that Obama’s bid was the highest bid on the home. Obama has said that he didn’t purchase the side yard because he could not afford it.
It’s still unclear exactly how Rezko came to buy the side yard. Back in November of 2006, when Obama was first interviewed by The Chicago Tribune about the deal, he was very hazy on the details: “I don’t recall exactly what our conversations were or where I first learned, and I am not clear what the circumstances were where he made a decision that he was interested in the property.”
In answering written questions from The Chicago Sun-Times later that week, he was clearer: “to the best of [his] recollection,” he’d told Rezko about the side yard and that “he developed an interest, knowing both the location and, as I recall, the developer who had previously purchased it.”
Last month, an Obama spokesman divulged more: that at some point before the purchase, which closed in June of 2005, Obama and Rezko had toured the property together “because Rezko was a real-estate developer in the area” and Obama wanted his opinion. The spokesman could not specify when, exactly, this tour had occurred — before Obama had made successive bids on the home in January of 2005, or after.
It’s not clear when Rezko bid on the property, but Obama has said that the seller accepted Rezko’s bid on the yard before accepting Obama’s bid on the house.
Both Obama and Michael Sreenan, Rezko’s former attorney who now owns the adjoining lot, have said that at least one other party bid on the yard, as an explanation for why Rezko ultimately paid the seller’s asking price, $625,000. The burning question, of course, is whether Rezko was doing Obama a favor by buying the side lot at the asking price. Though the seller, via the campaign, has corroborated other details about the purchase, he has not confirmed that there were other bids on the lot.
Though Obama made his final offer in January of 2005, the purchase did not close for another five months. It’s unclear why.
By June of 2005, when the purchases did close, Rezko’s ethical and legal troubles had begun unraveling on the pages of the city’s major newspapers. Just a month before, The Chicago Tribune had run a major profile of Rezko and his many entanglements, including the fact that he’d been subpoenaed as part of a sprawling corruption probe of the state government.
As you can see from the picture of the property above, the two properties are now divided by a fence. But there was no fence when the purchases were made. The Obamas have provided documents to The Chicago Tribune to show that, immediately following the purchase, they began making preparations for installing a fence — an undertaking that required considerable paperwork since the properties are landmarked. That process lasted several months.
When it finally came time to install the fence, the Obamas also wanted to extend their property by another five to ten feet so that the fence would be at a distance from the house. The Obamas ultimately purchased from Rezko a 10-foot wide strip adjacent to and paralleling their property line.
Obama has said that he approached Rezko personally in January of 2006 about buying some of the adjacent lot. To set the price for the 1,500-square-foot strip, which was one-sixth of the entire lot, Obama hired a firm to appraise its value. When that appraisal came in at $40,500, Obama says he judged it too low for appearance’s sake and instead set the price at $104,500, which was one-sixth of the price Rezko had paid for the entire lot. There’s been no suggestion that Rezko actually negotiated with Obama on the price. In any case, he accepted.
Rezko’s rapidly deteriorating situation might explain Obama’s extra caution. Since its profile of Rezko the previous May, the Tribune had also brought word (as you can see on our timeline) that Rezko had been subpoenaed on a number of other matters, all pertaining to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of influence-buying, cronyism, and extortion in Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) government. It was increasingly clear that he was of central interest to prosecutors. He was finally indicted in October of 2006.
Though Obama’s name may come up at the trial, since Rezko allegedly made illegal “straw” contributions (via intermediaries) to Obama in addition to a number of other politicians, he is expected to be only a peripheral player. As The Los Angeles Times puts it this morning, Obama will be in “the background.” But unfortunately for Obama, Rezko is also certain to be in the background of his campaign through November.”
I will answer 2 of the questions now, more later.
First a simple one.
“Though Obama made his final offer in January of 2005, the purchase did not close for another five months. It’s unclear why.”
Answer: The Obamas did not have the money or income in January 2005 (see 2004 tax return). The Rezkos were flat broke and heavily in debt (from Rezko Trial records and other sources). More later.
“And then there’s the other big question, whether Obama ever did anything for Rezko in return for his purchase of the side yard or all those contributions. Obama has said that Rezko “never asked me for anything” and “I’ve never done any favors for him.” No substantial evidence has surfaced to contradict that claim. (The Chicago Sun-Times did dig up letters from Obama in 1998, some seven years before the house sale, urging Illinois and Chicago officials to provide funding for a Rezko company to build apartments for senior citizens, but both Obama and Rezko denied that Rezko had asked Obama to write the letters, and there’s no evidence to the contrary.)”
We know from Rezko trial transcripts that Obama lied about his contact with Tony Rezko.
Chicago SunTimes February 10, 2008.
“In the media, Obama always made it sound like he rarely saw Rezko, saying they met for breakfast or lunch once or twice a year. However, the FBI mole John Thomas helped investigators “build a record of repeat visits to the old offices of Rezko and former business partner Daniel Mahru’s Rezmar Corp., at 853 N. Elston, by Blagojevich and Obama during 2004 and 2005,“
Chicago SunTimes March 14, 2008 interview with Obama.
“Thomas is an FBI mole and he “recently told us that he saw you coming and going from Rezko’s office a lot.””
From the Blagojevich Trial subpoena of Barack Obama. Portions related to Obama were initially redacted but then discovered.
“21. Tony Rezko is one of the government’s main witnesses.8 Mr. Rezko’s credibility is extremely relevant in this trial. In many instances, Mr. Rezko is the government’s crucial witness to prove up their allegations.9 Mr. Rezko wrote a letter to a federal judge stating “the prosecutors have been overzealous in pursuing a crime that never happened. They are pressuring me to tell them the “wrong” things that I supposedly know about Governor Blagojevich and Senator Obama. I have never been a party to any wrongdoing that involved the Governor or the Senator. I will never fabricate lies about anyone else for selfish purposes.” (Exhibit A)”
“22. However, the defense has a good faith belief that Mr. Rezko, President Obama’s former friend, fund-raiser, and neighbor told the FBI and the United States Attorneys a different story about President Obama. In a recent in camera proceeding, the government tendered a three paragraph letter indicating that Rezko “has stated in interviews with the government that he engaged in election law violations by personally contributing a large sum of cash to the campaign of a public official who is not Rod Blagojevich. … Further, the public official denies being aware of cash contributions to his campaign by Rezko or others and denies having conversations with Rezko related to cash contributions. … Rezko has also stated in interviews with the government that he believed he transmitted a quid pro quo offer from a lobbyist to the public official, whereby the lobbyist would hold a fundraiser for the official in exchange for favorable official action, but that the public official rejected the offer. The public official denies any such
conversation. In addition, Rezko has stated to the government that he and the
public official had certain conversations about gaming legislation and
administration, which the public official denies having had.”10?
“10 The defense has a good faith belief that this public official is Barack Obama. See, “Obama on Rezko deal: It was a mistake”, Dave McKinney, Chris Fusco, and Mark Brown, Chicago Sun Times, November 5, 2006. Senator Barack Obama was asked: “Did Rezko or his companies ever solicit your support on any matter involving state or federal government? Did Al Johnson, who was trying to get a casino license along with Tony Rezko, or Rezko himself ever discuss casino matters with you?” Senator Obama answered: “No, I have never been asked to do anything to advance his business interest. In 1999, when I was a State Senator, I opposed legislation to bring a casino to Rosemont and allow casino gambling at docked riverboats which news reports said Al Johnson and Tony
Rezko were interested in being part of. I never discussed a casino license with either of them. I was a vocal opponent of the legislation.” Obama’s involvement with Tony Rezko and this legislation coincides with the three paragraph summary the government has provided to the defense referenced above.”
“23. President Obama is the only one who can testify as to the veracity of Mr. Rezko’s allegations above.
24. President Obama has pertinent information as to the character of Mr. Rezko.
President Obama can testify to Mr. Rezko’s reputation for truthfulness as well as his own opinion of Mr. Rezko’s character. See, Fed. R. Evid. 405(a) and 608. Mr.
Rezko and President Obama became friends in 1990. According to President Obama, Mr. Rezko raised as much as $60,000 in campaign contributions for Obama.11
25. Based on the relationship that President Obama and Mr. Rezko had, President Obama can provide important information as to Mr. Rezko’s plan, intent, opportunity, habit and modus operandi. See, Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) and 406. For example, in June 2005, President Obama purchased a house for $1.65 million, $300,000 below the asking price. On the same day Tony Rezko’s wife, Rita, paid full price — $625,000 — for the adjoining land. In January 2006, Obama paid Mr. Rezko $104,500 for a strip of the adjoining land. The transaction took place when it was widely known that Mr. Rezko
was under investigation.12 President Obama’s relationship with Tony Rezko is
relevant and necessary Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) and 406 evidence.”
Motion to subpoena Obama redacted.
Motion to subpoena Obama redacted portions revealed.