March 10, 2008


Trials and tribulations: Barack Obama's ties to Tony Rezko come back to haunt him (The Economist, 3/06/08)

New interest in Mr Rezko means new interest in Mr Obama's ties to him. The developer was a supporter of Mr Obama from his earliest days in politics. (The senator has now given to charity some $150,000 in donations linked to Mr Rezko.) But Hillary Clinton's claim in January that Mr Obama had represented the “slum landlord” was incorrect. Mr Obama did only a few hours of work for non-profits working with him. He also denies giving Mr Rezko any favours. In 1998 Mr Obama wrote letters to support one of Mr Rezko's projects, a home for the elderly, but his campaign insists he would have backed the plan anyway.

More problematic is a favour Mr Obama accepted. Mr Rezko helped him buy his home in Chicago in 2005. The seller would close the deal on Mr Obama's house only if the adjacent empty lot was sold on the same day. In June 2005 Mr Obama bought his home for $1.65m, $300,000 less than the asking price, and Mr Rezko's wife bought the adjacent lot. (The sellers say that $1.65m was the best offer they received.) Mr Obama later bought a small strip of land from Mrs Rezko.

Mr Obama concedes that the deal was a “boneheaded” error. Hungry adversaries may find it the meatiest one available. By 2005 Mr Rezko was widely rumoured to be under federal investigation. Mr Obama's association with him shows a lapse in judgment—problematic for a man whose campaign rests on the claim that judgment matters more than experience.

It's times like these when it would be helpful to have done something--anything--in the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2008 7:37 AM
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