Rezko Trial: Obama As Defense Witness?

ABC News runs with the headline today, Obama: Witness for the Defense? The article has no facts, and is based on the opinion of one lawyer -- a federal prosecutor who was part of the team that prosecuted former Ill. Gov. George Ryan in 2006. Since the Ryan case, he's left the Government and has been a defense lawyer for a total of one year.

He says,

Sen. Barack Obama could be called as a witness for his longtime friend and accused Illinois fixer Tony Rezko, according to Chicago lawyers following the case.

...."I think it's realistic that that could happen during the trial," said Zach Fardon, a former Chicago federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted former Illinois Gov. George Ryan on corruption charges.

His theory: [More...]

Obama has said he was "unaware" of the allegedly illegal contributions Rezko insisted others make, and the Obama campaign has donated to charity some $150,000 connected to Rezko and others involved in the federal investigation.

But former prosecutor Fardon, now with the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins, says Rezko's defense lawyer could use Obama "to show that Mr. Rezko is somebody active in politics and political fundraising and there's nothing unto itself nefarious about that fact."

Sorry, there is not a snowball's chance in h*ll Obama will testify -- whether Rezko wants him to or not.

Assume Rezko or his lawyer think Obama could help Rezko. They let Obama know, through his lawyers, they would like him to be a witness and why. Obama's lawyers respond that it would probably backfire on Rezko and remind Rezko's lawyers of the things he knows that he would probably be asked on cross-examination, which when answered truthfully by Obama, would be hurtful to Rezko.

If they wanted still wanted Obama to testify, let's say on some specific incident, Obama's lawyers would just tell Rezko's lawyers that Obama's memory is weak or not definitive or Obama recalls events differently.

At that point, Rezko's lawyers are unlikely to subpoena Obama and take a chance. No defense lawyer is going to call a witness who will hurt their case -- either by not supporting the proposition they are called to testify about or because the damage likely from cross-examination outweighs the favorable point the witness would make on direct examination.

At most, they would leak something to the media through their commentator pals that Obama could help Rezko but he won't.

I think it's poor journalism for ABC News to run with this story based on one former prosecutor who is not connected to the case.

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    I think the point here (none / 0) (#1)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 11:50:05 AM EST
    is not the weak, unsubstantiated story, but the fact that it's running in the first place.  Still think media darling status will make Obama more electable than Clinton?

    Also, what's to stop the prosecution from calling Obama?  To me, that would be the smart move.  Make him plead the fifth.

    that's not warranted (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 11:59:21 AM EST
    Please do not imply Obama did something wrong for which he needs to invoke his 5th Am. privilege. That's not fair when there is no indication from any government source that it's true.

    I'm (5.00 / 3) (#41)
    by tek on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:27:58 PM EST
    really at the point with this that I find it hard to worry about Obama being damaged by association with Rezko when he has purposely smeared Hillary Clinton on numerous occasions and refused to correct the record when his campaign and supporters implemented slash and burn politics to hurt her.  He actually accused both Clintons of making racist remarks that he and his campaign directors manufactured and spread through the media as if they were facts.  Then that outright lie to Ohio and TX about NAFTA has me hoping that something, anything, will keep him out of the WH.

    Well, yes (none / 0) (#68)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:42:03 PM EST
    I think that the smears of racism against the Clintons, who have worked hard against it, not only were unfair to them -- and that cemented my concern about Obama -- but also, frankly, have set back the ability to have a good discourse about race in this country. I've heard that from several teachers, and if teachers are even more concerned about how to deal with this in the classroom, we never will learn . . . and we all have been disserved.

    Sorry! (none / 0) (#9)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:11:24 PM EST
    You know I am no Obama fan, but I wasn't using "the 5th" to imply guilt or innocence.  Us non-lawyers only know about the term from Perry Mason.  I will be more careful next time.  Apologies!

    What's to stop the prosecution from... (none / 0) (#14)
    by ItsGreg on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:19:27 PM EST
    ...calling Senator Obama as a witness? I assume the fact that Obama has already stated that he had no knowledge of any illegal activity. Fitzgerald is a solid and very careful prosecutor; he's not going to call a witness who doesn't have anything to contribute to the prosecution.

    what I fumbled very badly (none / 0) (#20)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:27:20 PM EST
    was saying that Obama could do the same thing to the prosecution that BTD says he could do to the Rezko folks, which is say that he doesn't remember or that he has nothing to add, in which case it wouldn't be wise to call him.

    Honestly, though, no matter who was involved in this case, I would say stay away from it at any cost.  The republicans have already shown that they will use the courts to bring down democrats.  This one appears to be going down a road that could threaten the IL governor.  Fitzgerald seems like a good guy, but Obama has a really big target on his back right now for obvious reasons.  The feds could pull another indictment out of thin air.  Rove may not be working under the White House roof, but he still knows how to make the right phone calls.

    That being said, Obama needs to call a news conference and answer these Rezko questions head on.  Not answering them is very, very bad from a political standpoint.  It's the same problem I have with his being so undefined.  He needs to make sure that the people writing the story of his life aren't part of the republican attack machine.


    Should HRC (none / 0) (#32)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:09:21 PM EST
    Also have to answer a list of questions about her personal relationships and their legal troubles?

    I do not think you want to go there, irrespective of what slime the GOP will pull.


    Oh man they been doing this since 1993 (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Florida Resident on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:13:48 PM EST
    reams and reams of documents have been done on her dealings and her contributors.  So many trees have had to die for the cause of bringing down Hillary.

    OK (none / 0) (#43)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:34:57 PM EST
    So why are you advocating wasting more paper on OHB but not HRC. She has not yet answered questions on many people's minds.

    You sound scared! (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by ivs814 on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:43:06 PM EST
    Your candidate cannot survive the scrutiny Hillary has had to endure for the last 15 years and you know it.  So you want your candidate to be "left alone" because it's not fair.  Grow up!  You're in the big leagues and you better brace yourself because the scrutiny is coming and crying about "wasting paper" is a loser's argument.

    Not My Candidate (none / 0) (#59)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:14:11 PM EST
    You seem irrational. You advocate asking OHB about things whose only function would be to make him look bad, (do you still beat your wife) but asking HRC about her husband's past is off limits. Hypocrite at best, a cultist at worst.

    Why would anyone but a GOPer want to embarrass a Dem over something so trivial. And yes if either question comes up for HRC or OHB during the GE it will blow up in the face of the GOP slimers, imo.


    wait a minute (none / 0) (#84)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:06:40 PM EST
    you are saying that because a person is a democrat, we should just vote for them and not ask questions about their judgment?

    That's not what I call a democracy.  They voted the same way in Russia last week.


    Not Surprising Twist (none / 0) (#86)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:17:16 PM EST
    Of what I said, coming from you. Considering you have never questioned HRC judgment on anything, you are much better example of the russian voter you portray.

    Have you read my comments on this issue (none / 0) (#49)
    by Florida Resident on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:43:22 PM EST
    I think this is a non-issue.  A defense lawyers pre-trial parry and an MSM who loves to create controversy.  But I don't agree with asking that HRC be asked anything either on issues such as this.  If someone did something illegal let the prosecutors bring charges and prove it.  If not I wish we could just discuss issues.  Other than that we need to lighten up.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#87)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:19:31 PM EST
    Sorry to assume you were advocating handing OHB a list on this non-issue.

    Yup, this story ... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 11:50:24 AM EST
    looks like a light snack, rather than a meal.

    But, to torture my metaphor, I think Clinton supporters can dine out on for a few days.

    Unless there is some dark secret conspiracy (none / 0) (#5)
    by Florida Resident on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:02:12 PM EST
    by the conservatives to bring Mr Obama down.   You know first the Conservative Canadian Government now the Bush Prosecutors hmmmmmmmmm : D how Rovian

    Does this involve the Masons ... (none / 0) (#6)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:04:39 PM EST
    or the trilateral commission?



    please stay on topic (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:26:21 PM EST

    One has to wonder: (none / 0) (#4)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 11:59:24 AM EST
    (a) why he's now a former prosecutor (any number of good, or not good, reasons);
    (b) why ABC has decided to run with this at all.  Other than being a pretty reliable outlet for the Repubs, I mean.

    One also has to remember this falls into the "anything is possible" box of stories.  When I was a first-year lawyer, I submitted Demands for Admissions to an adversary in a civil case.  These are a device (only available in civil cases) in which one party is entitled to demand that the other party either admit or deny that certain facts are true.  It's used to cut down on the number of facts which need be proven at trial.

    One of them (I was proud of my drafting) read:  "Admit that it is possible that [fact X] is true."

    The response I got has stuck with me about 20 years:  "Defendant admits that anything is possible."

    That's where this story belongs.

    Something of a sticky wicket (none / 0) (#21)
    by Anne on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:29:31 PM EST
    for both Obama and Rezko, don't you think?  This is clearly about more than just the purchase of a house - it's about financing politicians and the quid pro quo that may have accompanied it, and the question seems to be, what did Obama know about it?

    He can't say that he knew more, even if he did, because that gets Obama in a heap of trouble.  If he says he didn't know, and Rezko says he did, there's that trouble again.

    As for the sale of the house, I think there are all kinds of aspects to it which do not, at this point, appear to be illegal, but certainly don't smell very good, and if judgment is going to be an issue in this campaign, I think it's legitimate to get answers to the questions now.

    I think the problem for Obama is that Rezko does not appear to have ever done much of anything out of the goodness of his heart; looking at the allegations in this case, one has to wonder why Obama, who claims the high ground on judgment, and was and is seeking to climb the political ladder on a national stage, sought out the involvement of a man whose business practices left enough to be desired to the point where, at the time of the house purchase, he was known to be under federal investigation.  Obama can call it boneheaded, but to assume that doing so should end the questions is either naive or arrogant; he has still failed to be transparent on that particular deal.

    One thing's for sure - there has been little in the way of distinguished reporting in this election season; while I do not condone ABC's stretching on this one, it is no more unfair than the execrable treatment Clinton has endured for months, and there's no reason why Obama should expect better.


    AS (none / 0) (#42)
    by tek on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:30:50 PM EST
    an Illinoisan I can attest to the fact that Gov. Rod is in deep doodoo.  The fact that Obama's name keeps surfacing in connection with Rod is damaging.  At the very least, Obama has been running with a bad crowd in IL.

    Is it possible to be in Illinois politics (none / 0) (#47)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:39:57 PM EST
    and not run with a bad crowd?

    Is it possible to be Gov of Illinois (5.00 / 1) (#80)
    by Steve M on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:00:17 PM EST
    and not go to jail?  Stay tuned.

    Let it Develop (none / 0) (#7)
    by Athena on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:07:16 PM EST
    The unknown is how tarnished Obama will get as this all plays out.  Since Obama will not grant full interviews to discuss his Rezko ties, all the more reason to await the trial and what discovery uncovers.

    No party should settle for a nominee whose dealings with a political con man are starting to emerge only now.

    ALL kidding aside (none / 0) (#10)
    by Florida Resident on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:12:54 PM EST
    I think this should be a non-issue.  But it all depends on what our friends at the MSM make of it.  Hopefully we can just take the high road on this and keep on trucking.  (oops Aging Myself)

    I dunno (none / 0) (#15)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:21:22 PM EST
    a fuzzy land deal called Whitewater kept the Clintons tied up for years, and absolutely nothing came of the investigation, and they lost money on it.

    There has to be a thesis paper somewhere talking about manifest destiny and the American passion for land ownership and land-related debates.

    I think the question of whether this is an issue or not will depend on how the media plays it.  They are very, very good at making lemons out of lemonade.


    But you know they loved to hate the Clintons (none / 0) (#18)
    by Florida Resident on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:26:10 PM EST
    So it's really a matter of how long the Obama love affair last with them.

    I have to agree (none / 0) (#16)
    by Steve M on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:23:12 PM EST
    If Obama were forced to testify, he would obviously have to do everything within his power to throw Rezko under the bus, to make it clear that he is shocked, just shocked, by what has come out about Rezko's shady dealings.  Since Obama has no interest in helping Rezko publicly at this stage of the game, it would be crazy for Rezko's lawyers to subpoena him unless his testimony were absolutely, positively critical to the defense.

    agreed (none / 0) (#17)
    by Turkana on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:24:14 PM EST
    shoddy work from abc.

    If you were Rezko.. (none / 0) (#22)
    by Polkan on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:35:54 PM EST
    .. what could be the worst possible outcome of Obama's testimony, in the context of conviction?

    I think Rezko has every interest to have Obama testify, to the purity of their real estate deal to campaign contributions etc.

    actually (none / 0) (#23)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:39:30 PM EST
    the real estate deal was in Rezko's wife's name, so there isn't a direct link there.  Unless she was indicted as well?

    The campaign contributions are a question that should be addressed.  And wasn't Rezko a staff member on one of Obama's campaigns?


    woops (none / 0) (#25)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:48:00 PM EST
    can't find where it says Rezko was a staff member, just a powerful fundraiser.

    Rezko's wife is becoming an issue (none / 0) (#33)
    by DaleA on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:10:39 PM EST
    according to MYDD postings, she bought the land at a time Rezko was pleading poverty and no money. There was an asset search for Rezko's money. Where did these funds come from? And where did the money from the sale of the lot go? It appears that there is an issue of conceling assets coming into play.

    She got a bank loan (none / 0) (#53)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:59:14 PM EST
    The price was $625k or so, she got a loan from a bank (Mutual Harvey or something like that) for $500k. There are questions about where she got the $100k plus down payment, and whether it came from her husband though a loan from Auchi or someone else, but that doesn't have anything to do with Obama.

    Again, Obama's land deal is not an issue in Rezko's trial. Rezko's political contributions are an issue.


    Bank loan? (none / 0) (#57)
    by Foxx on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:06:13 PM EST
    How could people in such dire straits get a mortgage? Auchi again?

    It's really pretty simple - (none / 0) (#66)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:39:09 PM EST
    (1) you fill out the loan app (honestly, even).
    (2) the bank looks at the value of the property which will secure the loan/mortgage.
    (3) if (a) the loan to value ratio is acceptable to the bank and
    (b) the bank figures you can make the monthly payments (whether they require you to pay your other creditors or not, is another question), then
    (4) you get the loan.

    A lot of times, especially when the borrower is in sketchy straits, this is what's called "loan-to-own" from the bank's perspective.

    What the terms and conditions are that the sketchy borrower will get - that's another story.  She might (and I dunno) have gotten a mortgage, but at 14% or something equally egregious.


    But Mrs. Rezko owned no property (none / 0) (#70)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:43:51 PM EST
    at that time, per the Chicago press coverage. That's why her mortgage is looking odd.

    Perhaps you're forgetting (or I am) that (none / 0) (#73)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:50:35 PM EST
    the mortgage loan for the property would be secured by the property being purchased.

    If what you seem to imply (that she needed to own other property prior to getting a mortgage on this parcel) were true, then there would be no first-time home buyers, would there?


    Now, I have been a first-time buyer (none / 0) (#76)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:54:53 PM EST
    quite recently, and I needed more than the property itself, more than the down payment; I also needed other assets. Perhaps she had them, as you say.

    She made over $50K (none / 0) (#71)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:44:09 PM EST
    from the lot. 14% would have been a gift and bargain.

    That's why some people don't shrink (none / 0) (#74)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:52:18 PM EST
    at mortgages like that:  they might have a deal working in which they know they can make a profit that makes the high rate do-able.

    Superior knowledge is the basis of arbitrage, I guess.


    Obama says not (none / 0) (#77)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:55:59 PM EST
    and that they paid exactly a sixth of the cost of the lot for a sixth of the lot, per his 2006 interview with the Chi press linked here -- at least, as best I read it. You see otherwise?

    and what she sold the other 5/6 for, she grossed about $54K profit.

    Btw, a difference in price (none / 0) (#79)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:57:40 PM EST
    within so short a time is not something to talk about lightly -- it can be construed as property-flipping. And I am sure that is not what happened here.

    I think that is a pretty good description (none / 0) (#83)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:03:51 PM EST
    of the Mrs. Rezko's activity.

    Joseph Aramanda (none / 0) (#46)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:39:33 PM EST
    In my view. I think Obama makes the Government's case on the campaign contribution issue. Amaranda gave $10,000 from an alleged improper finders' fee scheme to Obama's Senate campaign, allegedly at the direction of Rezko because Rezko was maxed out on campaign contribution limits and couldn't donate in his own name.  Also, Rezko asked Obama to hire Aramanda's son as an intern (which Obama did, but again, he didn't have reason to suspect the contribution from Aramanda wasn't legit and the son worked there only five weeks.)

    From the Chicago Tribune:

    U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve, who is presiding over Rezko's trial, told prosecutors they could introduce evidence to support allegations that Rezko used straw men to make political contributions on his behalf.

    In her ruling, St. Eve said the government contends that Rezko directed business associates Joseph Aramanda and Elie Maloof to make contributions to an unnamed political candidate in late 2003 and 2004 because Rezko had already contributed the maximum legal amount.

    The only candidate Maloof and Aramanda contributed to during that time frame was Obama, then running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. Maloof and Aramanda each gave $10,000 to Obama's campaign.

    ....Aramanda is a Glenview businessman whose son received a coveted summer internship in Obama's Capitol Hill office in 2005.

    The judge's ruling is here. (pdf). It outlines the Government's allegation that the money Amaranda contributed came from an illegal finders' fee:

    The government has moved to admit evidence that Rezko used other individuals to make politicalcontributions. As noted above, Glencoe Capital paid a $375,000 fee to Sheldon Pekin for the TRS investment in Glencoe. A chunk of that fee went to Aramanda, and Rezko allegedly directed Aramanda to provide the money to others. The government contends that Aramanda used some of it - at Rezko's direction - to make a political contribution because Rezko had already donated the maximum amount allowed by law and he could not make the contribution himself. In order to establish Rezko's identity as the person behind
    this payment and to establish his knowledge of the contribution and control over the money, the government seeks to introduce evidence that just months before Rezko directed Aramanda to make the political contribution, Rezko directed Elie Maloof to donate for the same reason.

    This evidence is admissible pursuant to Rule 404(b) because it is evidence of Rezko's identity as the person behind the payment from the charged conduct, and it is relevant to his knowledge of, and control over, the payment from the charged Glencoe Capital finder's fee. Defendant's attack on the credibility of the witnesses who will testify regarding it is an issue for the jury. See Green, 258 F.3d at 694. ....It is also direct evidence of the allegation in the Indictment that "Rezko raised significant amounts of money
    for certain Illinois politicians." (R. 96-1, Indictment ¶ 1i).

    In addition, Rezko allegedly previously directed Aramanda and Maloof to make other political contributions. For the same reasons, this evidence is admissible.

    Obama' s testimony would (none / 0) (#67)
    by MKS on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:39:58 PM EST
    appear to be irrelevent and at best cumulative...

    The question is did Rezko use strawmen....Obama can merely say, yup, I got the contribution.  You can prove that from the records....The credibility issue is regarding the "defendant's" attack on prosecution witnesses....who appear to be Aramanda or Maloof....Nothing about Obama....The issue is the apparent testimony of these guys that Rezko was trying to get around campaign finance laws.  I don't see any obvious reference to how Obama could bolster any prosecution position that the contributions were dirty.

    Jeralyn, there is no basis to say that Obama supports the prosection's case....Has Fitzgerald listed him on his witness list?  Has any court ruling mentioned Obama?


    I didn't say Obama supports the govts case (none / 0) (#72)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:50:27 PM EST
    I said if Rezko were to call him as a witness, Obama might make the government's case on the political allegation involving Amaranda-- it has nothing to do with what Obama wants to do. It does not require Obama to know the contribution was dirty. I said Obama had no reason to know that.

    Again, the point of this post is that there is no evidence or reason to believe Obama will be called as a witness by Rezko as the ABC pundit pontificicated. He will tell Rezko he doesn't help him and it's risky because his testimony for Rezko could end up helping the Government make its case.

    MSK, you've already been limited to four comments today on two different threads. Now you are miscasting my writing. Please leave now.


    Nothing To See Here (none / 0) (#24)
    by BDB on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:45:15 PM EST
    This seems like typical lawyer smoke blowing and nothing substantive.  Rezko may become more embarrassing for Obama or it may not, but nothing in this "news" article indicates that one way or the other.

    I share your skepticism that Rezko will call Obama as a witness.  There's no point to it unless they know Obama will be friendly and I doubt that's the signals Obama's team is sending precisely because I assume he'd rather undergo multiple rounds of oral surgery than be a witness at this trial.

    Clinton campaign (none / 0) (#26)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 12:54:47 PM EST
    put out a list of questions for Obama to answer re: Rezko.  Finally, they are learning how to spin this.


    Sigh. Doing media's work for them (none / 0) (#30)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:08:22 PM EST
    again, but somebody has got to do it -- and it ought to have been Obama's campaign, to get this behind him.

    And Obama bears no responsibility (none / 0) (#29)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:06:37 PM EST
    for this? Uh huh. He could have come forward, with his famed "transparency," and cleared up a lot about the house, the side lot purchase, etc. I truly think it is not that bad for him, nothing illegal, so all he had to do was release records, answer questions, and move on before this opening court date. And really, read the comments. There is little glee here, and it was harnessed immediately. And the diarist made clear from the start, as a lawyer, that there is nothing here, no doubt, except perhaps grandstanding by a lawyer lacking . . . well, experience. As for the media, yes, they're going to cover it -- and that was not going to be up to Clinton. Again, see first paragraph re what Obama could have done by now. I do hope he does so soon, so that he and his family can enjoy their home.

    Has he not been interviewed (none / 0) (#36)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:20:54 PM EST
    about the house and side lot purchase already?

    yes (none / 0) (#37)
    by Florida Resident on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:22:59 PM EST
    You do realize (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by Anne on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:00:40 PM EST
    that your link is to an article from November of 2006, right?

    In this day of the 24-hour news cycle, an article that is 15 months old is not particularly current.

    Just in the last couple of weeks, Obama added that he and Rekzo had toured the property before going through with it - that was a new detail, which makes some of us wonder what other details there are that have not been revealed.

    There's Michelle Obama's involvement as a member of the Landmarks Commission board.

    There's the question of who paid for the subdivision, the surveys, etc. that were needed in order to carve what was one lot into two, and still maintain the zoning that came with preferential tax treatment - subdivision costs are usually borne by the property owner, not the buyer.

    How is it that Obama managed to get the most valuable property at $300,000 below asking price, but Rita Rezko paid the full price for a lot that wasn't really developable?  Was there an accommodation made - "if you'll sell the house to him for below-list, we'll pay full price for the lot" - ?  Some of is would like to know.

    I am hard-pressed to understand how someone with Obama's experience and good judgment only apparently thought to seek out one person to help him with this purchase - a man under federal investigation, with a terrible reputation as a slumlord.  Interesting that the people who lived in some of that Rezko-rehabbed low-income housing were Obama constituents, and yet...there doesn't seem to be much evidence that Obama was helping them during his local legislative tenure, as much as he was working on helping himself.  That's not illegal, but it sure flies in the face of Obama-as-altruistic-visionary, doesn't it?

    If nothing else, the details coming to light about Obama's career are slowly stripping away the veneer Obama applied to himself by rewriting that history.

    It may be disappointing to realize that Obama has bamboozled his supporters, but I'm relieved that it's coming out now, and not in November.


    Oh I know that is just that it was handy and (none / 0) (#60)
    by Florida Resident on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:14:16 PM EST
    the question was had he ever been interviewed and the answer is yes and that is an example of how long ago he has been facing questions about it.  Now as far as all the other things like his wife's position on the Landmark Commission I refer to another comment I made were I stated that if anything illegal has been done it is up to the prosecution to investigate, bring charges and prove it in court.  And if the press or anyone else has evidence of wrongdoing then they should bring them up for follow up.  Until then this is really a non issue and as I deplored the presses public prosecution of the Clintons without any valid evidence, I will also condemn them if they do it to the Obamas.  That is my position.

    Much of what you mention (none / 0) (#65)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:36:11 PM EST
    has already been explained, as I'm sure you well know, however your last main point - ie., why in heck BO thought it would be smart to enter into a business deal with the already-under-investigation-Rezkos - remains a tough one to answer.

    Suo - one sees this pretty often in (none / 0) (#69)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:42:55 PM EST
    real estate/small business practices.  The parties to a deal, particularly so the more they have worked together in the past, will often feel comfortable with issues (personality, credit, general seediness, whatever) on the 4th or 10th deal that would have scotched any deal had they cropped up on the first one.

    Just like people who work in the same office will put up with a co-worker's particular nuttiness that develops over time, when they would not have hired a person exhibiting that same quirk at the get-go.

    In other words, human nature and familiarity.


    My point was not about (none / 0) (#78)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:57:20 PM EST
    BO's personal comfortableness with doing a deal with Rezko due to Rezko's legal troubles, but BO's judgment in doing a deal with Rezko because of how it would appear to others.

    Granted, it may not have been as obvious to BO in '99 (or whenever he bought the house) that he would be a likely Dem POTUS nominee in '08, and thereby engender serious digging into his background, but he was still a politician at the time and Rezko was still under investigation as everyone, including BO, knew.

    He let his (or Michele's, maybe) house-lust get in the way of his judgement, imo.


    Add: (none / 0) (#99)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 04:48:39 PM EST
    Strike my second para above. Not sure what I was thinking of re: "'99"...

    Not for several years, that (none / 0) (#38)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:23:04 PM EST
    I've seen -- an interview in the Chi press that I looked at again only yesterday, and it was before new information since. And he has said different things since, as in a nationally televised debate, about their relationship and more.


    This is absurd (none / 0) (#39)
    by flyerhawk on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:26:58 PM EST
    He has answered the questions.  You just aren't happy with the answers.  

    It's amusing to see you guys contort yourselves explaining why Hillary shouldn't be obliged to release her tax returns yet you think that Obama should continually answer the same questions regarding Rezko.

    What are the records you would like released?


    No contortion required (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by Democratic Cat on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:35:50 PM EST
    I think she has said she will release her tax records when she is the nominee. I was not aware that Sen. Clinton was the Democratic nominee. If Obama is willing to concede the race, I am willing to concede she should release her tax records now.

    I'm not sure what people think is going to be hidden in her 1040. She wrote a book and made a ton of money. Good on her.

    I have not followed the story closely, but I see nothing in the Rezko dealings to cause great problems for Obama. I'd rather he be asked -- and made to answer -- questions about important domestic and foreign policy issues.


    She does not by any stretch control the press (none / 0) (#31)
    by Kathy on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:08:51 PM EST
    their turning on Obama is the press's own doing.

    But, more importantly, what about the hopes and dreams of the Hillary Clinton supporters?  We are part of history, too.  We have a lot of young people (granted, not as many) who are excited by our candidate.  There are millions of women who feel empowered by her historic run.  

    Why doesn't that matter as much?  Why is that insignificant when compared to Obama's "movement"?

    Complicating factor (none / 0) (#35)
    by DaleA on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 01:14:41 PM EST
    In Illinois there are endless boards and panels that come into play when real estate changes hands. According to posts at MYDD, Michele Obama was on the board that would have approved the division of an historic neighborhood property. But there is no record of any public meeting on the subject, as required by law. This has the murky byzantine aura of most Chicago scandals. Ultimately we may be looking into Drainage District records to understand what actually happened.

    Anne kindly linked to the article (5.00 / 1) (#95)
    by DaleA on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 04:13:32 PM EST
    I was referencing. It was also on MYDD. From :

    In order to divide the lot, which the doctor purchased as one entity, he would have to:

    • Hire an approved architect and general contractor, who had been involved in renovations and sub-divisions in Kenwood previously

    • Have the lots surveyed and new plot plans drawn

    • Re-start the Landmark Commission permit approval process

    • Hold a public hearing (required).

    This is what interests me:

    Pages 51 and 52 of the Landmark ordinances show how many proofs and other forms of extensive documentation are required in order to subdivide the land. Can any rational person believe the doctor would have been willing to go along with having his property sub-divided, and all the work and time involved, without compensation and assistance? Who paid for this?

    With Michelle sitting on the Landmarks board, Commission approval wasn't expected to be an issue, even though I have not located notice of the Public Hearing from any of the involved boards. From there it would go to the City Planning Board and the Zoning Boards, which also require public hearings. Each of these steps average between 6 weeks and 3 months to complete.

    The doctor's property was located in what Chicago Zoning Terms refer to as Residential Single zone 1, or RS1. This means the house the Obamas bought required 6,250 sq. ft of area. Even if it had the designation lowered to RS2, it still would have required 5,000 square feet, as seen on page 5 of Chicago's zoning ordinances. Starting on page 8, the ordinances specify setbacks and how much space must be available on each side of a building. The open space on the building's sides normally conform to Fire Regulations, so that equipment can access all portions of a building during crises.

    Public Records at the Chicago Commission on Landmarks, the Chicago Planning Department and Chicago Zoning Boards would show the exact dates of permits, hearings and approvals. Michelle was so confident she listed the Obamas' condo, which was located on the first floor of a Hyde Park Brownstone. In October 2004, Michelle expressed surprise to a Chicago interviewer that the Condo had sold so quickly, which meant they either had to put off a closing date or write in a lease agreement for a specified amount of time in their Condo purchase contract.

    This is based on a Chicago Tribune article no longer available on line. The lack of required hearings is interesting. Hearings of this sort are fairly common in Illinois, at least they were when I lived there. Everyone in the neighborhood would be mailed a notice about the public hearing. (Went through this once about a corn dryer.) There is usually at least one neighbor who shows up to object. The records from these hearings would be usefull, if they exist.  


    The hyperlink did not post (none / 0) (#98)
    by DaleA on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 04:23:00 PM EST
    but the rest did. My understanding from having lived in the Chicago area, is that the setbacks etc are required by the Drainage District. There is a limit to how much of a lot can be under an inpermeable cover. But that is a minor matter.

    Not quite (none / 0) (#55)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:03:03 PM EST
    Michelle Obama resigned from the board months before they bought the house. She contacted the board afterwards regarding the appropriate permits to file to erect a fence.

    Nothing wrong there. If you have an allegation, include a link to the source (in html format, using the link button at the top of your comment box.)

    We don't toss around allegations of legal misconduct here.


    Did she? Good. I had read elsewhere (none / 0) (#75)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:53:21 PM EST
    in a long account of this that her resignation was quite close in time to these events. And as it happens, I have served on a similar board and am quite sensitive about ethical behavior on such boards -- and by those who get historical preservation designations, as they can mean substantial tax credits for years to come.

    Jeralyn, I would refer you to this post (none / 0) (#82)
    by Anne on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:03:13 PM EST
    at No QUARTER: How to buy a Mansion you can't Afford which states in part:
    Flush from the success of Barack's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the Obamas decided it was time to find a residence more fitting for their anticipated new status. Barack's 1995 autobiography Dreams of My Father soared, and they knew Alan Keyes was no threat to their future success in the US Senate elections.

    Sitting on the Commission of Chicago Landmarks board, Michelle knew of a permit, waiting for review and approval to sell, for a designated Historical Georgian revival home built in 1910 with four fireplaces, glass-door bookcases fashioned from Honduran mahogany, and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar owned by a doctor in Kenwood. The Commission is supported not only by donations and taxes but also by charges for permits. It's a pretty extensive process, and they want a complete history of the house and property when a permit is requested. Once the Board approves a permit, the application goes to the city planning or zoning commission if more than a simple sale is involved.


    All that needed to be done, in the name of the doctor, on the Kenwood property was completed by March 2005, and the house was finally listed. Michelle Obama resigned her seat on the Chicago Commission on Landmarks at the same time. Barack and Michelle closed on their new home in June of 2005, for $1.65 million dollars, $300,000 less than the asking price, and most likely using the proceeds of their Condo for a down payment, while taking out a mortgage for $1.32 million from Northern Trust. Tony Rezko's wife purchased the newly divided sub-plot for the full price of $625,000 and closed on the same day.


    Within in a month of purchasing their new home, the Obamas began the same process the doctor previously went through. Because Tony Rezko was being indicted, they needed to be distanced from him. So the Obamas hired a lawyer and an architect. Additionally, the Obama's wanted to put up a fence separating the two properties. On page 21 of the Landmark Ordinances above, it states fences for Historic homes can be no more than 5' high and must not be visible from the street. If the Obamas had purchased a prefab chain, picket or wooden fence, they would have lost the Historic designation and also the eight-year property tax freeze benefit accrued by agreeing to keep the house in conformance with Landmark regulations.

    It seems clear to me that Michelle Obama very much used her position on the board until the initial subdivision was completed, and then she resigned; it was the later subdivision that was done entirely without Michelle Obama's seat on the board.


    not a reputable source of facts.

    Among other things Chicago Landmarks has no influence on the sale or purchase of a Landmark-designated home.

    The Chicago Landmarks Commission

    recommend[s] to the City Council that individual buildings, sites, objects, or entire districts be designated as Chicago Landmarks, thereby providing legal protection.


    The Commission is also responsible for reviewing any proposed alteration, demolition, or new construction affecting individual landmarks or properties in landmark districts as part of the permit review process.

    The Commission has no authority to issue permits nor influence in any way the sale of any Landmark-designated property in any way.

    Had you bothered to click through to the linked (5.00 / 1) (#93)
    by Anne on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:43:34 PM EST
    post you would have found numerous other links to widely published articles, as well as links to the Landmarks Commission and to permits and zoning links.  A MyDD diary was also referenced, and there was an embedded video from MSNBC.

    If you want to dispute the information cited in that post, please do so, but you might want to read it first; the information you provided did not serve to disprove that Michelle Obama was very much still a member of the board during the original subdivision process.  Even if the board had no authority to issue permits, it did have the authority to reject landmark status for the property had the subdivision not been in compliance with the requirements for it, and that would have resulted in it losing its favorable property tax treatment - something I would imagine would make a big difference whether one could afford to own the property.

    Michelle Obama came to know about the property because of her position on the board; the owner had filed for a permit and approval to sell, but it was not listed for sale at that time.  Someone - and it is not clear to me who - had to have approached the doctor about what he was asking for the property, because once they knew the asking price, went to Tony Rezko for advice about how they could afford to buy the property.  It was Rezko who apparently suggested subdivision, and again - someone had to have approached the doctor with that possibility, and someone paid for the cost of doing it.

    No notice of required public hearings has been found, which is a little interesting, as well.

    While Obama did pay for the second subdivision after he bought the property, and for the fence that was required, I'm not sure anyone knows who paid for the cost of the original subdivsision.  


    That is my point, (none / 0) (#96)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 04:17:53 PM EST
    Michelle Obama came to know about the property because of her position on the board; the owner had filed for a permit and approval to sell, but it was not listed for sale at that time.
    Your blog writer says there is such a thing as a Chicago Landmarks Commission "permit" required to sell a Landmark-designated home, but Chicago Landmarks itself does not have any such permit.

    This imaginary "permit" is the smoking gun of your blog writer's entire conspiracy theory.

    I don't question the dates of Michele's work on  the Commission, I question whether it matters.

    In fact, and this is just my hunch based on some experience, I question the whole idea that the BO home and the lot next to it were not already separate and distinct lots.

    A much more likely scenario, imo, is that the seller owned his home on the one lot and he also owned the adjoining un-developed lot which he used as part of his yard.

    Not an uncommon situation in many, many neighborhoods across America.

    The only sources I've found that would suggest that there was in fact originally only one big lot that the seller got subdivided into two smaller lots just before he put the whole shebang up for sale are a bunch of bloggers and diarists.

    Similarly, the only sources I've found that would suggest that Chicago Landmarks has the authority to control the sale of Landmark-designated properties through permits, or any other means for that matter, thereby implying that Michele, who worked on the Landmarks Commission, had something untoward to do with the whole deal, are a bunch of bloggers and diarists.


    I think what you are missing here (none / 0) (#104)
    by Anne on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 05:21:08 PM EST
    is that, while nothing would have prevented the owner from selling the property, doing so without satisfying and complying with whatver the Landmark Commission's requirements are for maintaining the property's status would have jeopardized that status, and resulted in the property no longer qualifying for preferential property tax treatment.  I'm guessing that would have taken the taxes to a much higher level.

    The reason you seem to be able to find little of record is one of the problems - if there is no record of the required public hearings, that could mean no hearings were ever held, and that raises some questions about Michelle Obama's role.

    And, just so you know, while the post I cited was at NO QUARTER, it was not written by either Larry or Susan, and I believe originally appeared at mydd.  I'm thinking you may have a problem with them, too, so, it may be meaningless information.

    If you would just have taken the time to read the post, and follow the embedded links, you would have been able to get past your hunches about what transpired, and addressed the original questions.


    Anne, (none / 0) (#107)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 06:00:48 PM EST
    I took the time to read the post. In fact, I read it last week, it was just as factually challenged then as it is now. btw, all the pertinent embedded links come up as errors, so they're useless.

    What you seem to miss, and maybe if you had read my link to Chicago Landmarks you would have understood, is that there are no requirements involved in buying or selling a Landmark-designated home that could possibly cause it to lose or jeopardize it's status.

    Remodeling and/or construction changes to the exterior of the home CAN affect a home's status and therefor need to be "permitted" by the Commission in order to ensure the home's continuing Landmark status.

    But that's not what were discussing, we're discussing buying or selling a Landmark-designated home, and there is nothing with regard to that that has any bearing on the home's continuing status.

    End of story. Anything else anyone suggests is a red herring.

    How about this, the reason there are no records of public hearings is because there were no public hearings. And there were no public hearing because there were no public hearings required. And there were none required because, well, because, according to Chicago Landmarks itself, there are no hearings necessary to sell (nor is there any body with the authority to require hearings to sell) a Landmark-designated home and/or vacant lot.

    I have nothing in particular against MTDD or Larry or Susan, however I do have a problem with unsourced allegations which is what your link leads us to.


    Add: (none / 0) (#97)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 04:22:03 PM EST
    But it if the seller DID in fact subdivide the property in order to have two lots to sell, then I do believe he would have needed a Landmarks Commission permit as part of his requirements, and that would bring Michele's involvement into deserved scrutiny.

    And if you look at the links (none / 0) (#101)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 04:51:17 PM EST
    to the commission site, it discusses the permits.

    Cream, it must just be me, but, (none / 0) (#103)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 05:11:12 PM EST
    what permits are you talking about? And what is their significance?

    The Commission has the authority to issue permits regarding exterior remodeling, etc., of Landmark-designated properties, but it does not have the authority to allow or deny the sale of any property, whether through a permit process or any other kind of process.


    Add: (none / 0) (#106)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 05:24:42 PM EST
    Further reading leads me to believe that the Commission does not have the authority to to "permit" a subdivision of a property, but merely the responsibility to advise the City on whether to allow it or not...

    Correct -- (none / 0) (#108)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 07:40:26 PM EST
    it's involved in improving/changing a property, and whether owners get tax credits for it. Not involved in buying or selling . . . but a home that has the historical landmark designation, that has not been badly done over so as to lose its historical value, will have a benefit on the market for the next buyer to be able to continue to improve it with tax credits. Trust me, 20%-plus back on a new furnace, a roof (especially if authentic tiled roofing), a porch, plumbing, electrical, windows (often not standard and having to be customized), etc. -- it adds up. It is a great program, meaning many millions of breaks for many in my city every year (and that's just residential; commercial is even higher). And for my neighborhood to get that status, it was a lot of work -- and there were public hearings here.

    This is becoming tiresome, Cream, (none / 0) (#109)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 11:24:02 PM EST
    because you never actually state your point.

    Are you suggesting that because there were no public hearings w/regard to the Obama home something tawdry occurred?

    Well, if so, fyi, the Obama home is in a Landmark District in which EVERY home in the District was awarded Landmark status at the time the District was established, which was 1979.

    Thus there were the required public hearings w/regard to the Obama home, and they took place at the relevant time, ie., almost 30 years ago.


    Is it the designated entity there (none / 0) (#88)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:19:54 PM EST
    of the federal government for approving tax deductions under the Historical Preservation Act? I hope not.

    I just found the website (none / 0) (#89)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:26:46 PM EST
    of the Chicago commission. It is the body designated under the Act. . . .

    From the Chi commission site: (none / 0) (#90)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:30:05 PM EST
    Preservation Incentives Landmark status can enhance a building's prestige, increase the value of the property and help stabilize an entire neighborhood. There are also specific financial benefits available from federal and local programs, including: BUILDING OWNERS * Reduced Property Tax Assessments for Commercial Rehabilitation * Income Tax Credits for Commercial Rehabilitation * Income Tax Deductions for Easement Donations * Property Tax Assessment Freeze for Residential Rehabilitation * Building and Zoning Code Exceptions * Technical Assistance from City Preservation Specialists BUILDING OWNERS/TENANTS * Permit Fee Waivers for City Building Permits Other grant and loan programs are also available, ranging from housing assistance to storefront rehabilitation to economic development.

    Ok, what's the point? (none / 0) (#92)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:31:47 PM EST
    I linked to it in my post as well. (none / 0) (#91)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 03:30:58 PM EST
    What's the significance of it and tax deductions and the HPA?

    In our home restoration project (none / 0) (#100)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 04:49:29 PM EST
    using the approval process of the federal incentives act to preserve historic homes, we have received back tax credits of more than 20% of the cost of the work. That has meant many thousands of dollars -- and our home is no mansion. It depends upon how much work they wanted and/or had to do and have yet to do. I read that there was an approval for their fence (around the Rezko property to make it accessible only from their yard); if historically authentic and approved, it would have meant that proportion of the costs back. If they did or do roofing, windows, and anything exterior; if they did or do structural and necessary interior improvements such as a furnace, air conditioning, new plumbing or electrical, etc. . . ditto, if they go through the approval process, the process that someone sitting on a historical preservation board would know. (Btw, it only takes some paperwork and a couple of weeks.)

    Agreed, but I must be dense, (none / 0) (#102)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 05:00:53 PM EST
    what has this to do with Barack? Or the Michele's involvement with the Landmarks Commission?

    iow, are you suggesting the Obama's have done anything untoward or illegal w/respect to tax reabates?

    Rezko was supposed to pay for the fence, if that matters.


    Commenter MKS (none / 0) (#58)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 02:13:30 PM EST
    is a chatterer, trying to hijack the thread. His/her off-topic comments and responses to them have been deleted. If s/he continues, s/he will be banned from the site.

    Did Larry research and author the diary? (none / 0) (#105)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 05:21:58 PM EST