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Barack Obama - The Wizard Of Oz

By Evelyn Pringle

28 March, 2008
Countercurrents.org

The most trusted leaders of the Democratic party, such as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, ought to be ashamed of themselves for supporting Barack Obama. With use of the internet, a fifth grader could connect the dots to show a picture of a guy who was picked up in college and carried up the political ladder by a corrupt gang of influence peddlers.

John McCain is just drooling waiting for Obama to become the nominee so that he can come out with the trail of dirt that the Democratic party is too afraid to reveal this late in the in the game. If nominated, Obama will not survive a month when faced with the Republican attack machine.

If he becomes the nominee, the web of corruption leading to Obama's rise to power that this investigative journalist was able to untangle in less than three weeks, will be front page news right up until election day, handing the Republicans their only chance in hell of winning the White House.

Instead of the leaders of the Democratic party doing their homework, a small group of investigative reporters in Chicago will be credited with exposing the corrupt backbone of Obama political career and the mainstream media need only follow their lead if the Democrats hold him out to be a viable candidate.

The list of reporters deserving of credit for doing the investigative work that should have been done by the leaders of the Democratic party before they got behind Obama, includes, but is not limited to, Chicago Sun-Times reporters, Tim Novak, Dave McKinney, Fran Spielman, Chris Fusco, Natasha Korecki, Steve Warmbir and Lynn Sweet. Chicago Tribune reporters especially deserving of credit include Jeff Coen, Bob Secter, John Chase, Virginia Groark, Rick Pearson, David Jackson, John McCormick, Mickey Ciokajlo, Rudolph Bush and Dan Mihalopoulos.

This article is the first in a series that will give the details of Obama's rise to fame.

As for the most recognized allegation against Obama, that helped slumlords operate in Chicago, while accepting their campaign contributions, its true. Obama was a member of the political machine that helped a whole gang of slumlords funnel local, state and federal tax dollars, over the backs of poor people in need of affordable housing, to line their own pockets and fund the campaigns of politicians in positions to recommend and award contracts.

The Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland law firm, where Obama worked for nearly a decade, served as a hub for a slew of slumlord deals, many that benefited the firm's founder, Allison Davis, and Obama's claims that he knew nothing about the inner workings of this small firm, represent an insult to the intelligence of the American public.

Tony Rezko was Obama political Godfather. Obama received his first contributions of $2,000, to launch his political career as a state senator on July 31, 1995, from Rezko. Obama started out saying that Rezko only raised $50,000 or $60,000 for his political career but after a year of lying his way through the primaries, the latest total he gave to the Sun-Times and Tribune during interviews on March 14, 2008, adds up to $250,000.

For a year, he also minimized his relationship with Rezko by telling the media that he only had dinner or lunch with Rezko one or twice a year. But when confronted by Sun-Times reporters during the March 14 interview, with the allegation that an FBI mole saw him coming and going to Rezko’s office often and that three sources said he talked to Rezko on the phone daily, Obama changed his tune.

Now the story is that he may have talked to Rezko daily at times during campaigns but sometimes he went for a whole month without talking to him. “I have to say we're talking over the course of 10 years,” Obama said, “there might have been spurts where I talked to him daily.”

But then he added: "There might have been stretches over a month where I wouldn't have talked to him at all."

This story is a far cry from the picture Obama gave to the public of him and Rezko meeting once or twice a year, and he never did respond to the allegation by the Times reporter that an FBI mole “saw you coming and going from Rezko’s office a lot.“

Without Rezko's fundraising, Obama would not have been elected to the Illinois senate, or the US Senate, and he would not have sold the books he wrote about himself because like the Wizard of Oz, Obama is nobody special.

Even with Rezko's massive fund raising, Obama could not beat former Black Panther, Bobby Rush, in his 2000 bid for a seat in Congress. And the only reason he won the US Senate race was because his viable opponents had to drop out due to the public airing of personal scandals. Beating Alan Keyes is hardly a victory to brag about.

The media needs to quit grouping all the Obama backers under the name Antoin "Tony" Resko because the list of contributors to his political campaigns includes the names of many individuals and entities with their own agendas.

The trail of corruption involving the people raising money for Obama's political career stretches from the city of Chicago to the Illinois tollway to the O'Hare airport all the way over to Iraq. And testimony in Rezko's corruption trial reveals that an equal number of Democrat and Republican crooks benefited from all the moneymaking schemes.

Rezko is not a Democrat; he's an equal opportunity profiteer. He supported President George Bush and attended a Christmas party at the White House in December 2003, at the same time that he was a top fundraiser for Obama's US Senate campaign.

Rezko co-hosted a $3.8 million Chicago fundraiser for Bush in 2003, and on December 9, 2003, he donated $4,000 to Bush, as a "self-employed businessman," and gave another $2,000 on December 19, 2003, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Prior to backing Rod Blagojevich for governor of Illinois, Rezko threw his money behind Republican candidates for governor, including George Ryan, who was convicted of doling out leases and contracts to cronies and sentenced to prison for more than 6 years.

Rezko then switched horses and chose Blagojevich in 2002 and Obama has supported Blagojevich, even when his administration was embroiled in corruption investigations.

Recent testimony in the Rezko trial by his co-conspirator, Chicago businessman, Stuart Levine, explained that Rezko had plans for Blagojevich to be Presidential, not Obama. However, anybody following the trial knows that Blagojevich is more likely to be headed to the "Big House" rather than occupying the White House.

Obama's entering into real estate deals with Rezko, while it was public knowledge that he was under investigation for funneling illegal contributions to Illinois politicians, was not a "boneheaded" move, it was motivated by pure greed. While knowing that he would get caught up in a major scandal, Obama went ahead with the deal because he and his wife wanted that mansion, with four fireplaces, six bathrooms, and a wine cellar, period.

On March 16, 2008, the Boston Globe added an interesting twist to the story when reporting that Donna Schwan, of MetroPro Realty, which listed the mansion and lot next door for the owners, "said it is her recollection that the Obamas may not have made the highest bid, and that other bidders may have matched Rezko's bid," but the willingness of both buyers to close in June 2005, "was decisive."

Which logically means had Rezko not been willing to buy the lot in June, the deal was off.

According to an article by Edward McClelland in the February 1, 2008 Salon Magazine, when asked who approached her about the house, Donna Schwan told Salon, "I honestly don't remember. Tony Rezko lived across the street, so he'd been interested in the lot."

Any claim that Obama was unaware of the investigations into the corrupt dealings of Rezko with Illinois politicians in June 2005 is ridiculous. On February 15, 2005, the Chicago Tribune reported:

"Gov. Rod Blagojevich long has vowed to purge the Illinois tollway of cronyism, yet two of his closest friends and political advisers have links to food vendors awarded lucrative contracts to operate inside the toll road's sleek new oases, government records show."

"The Subway sandwich shops and Panda Express Asian restaurants now being installed in the tollway's seven revamped rest stops are controlled by firms with strong ties to the food-service empire of Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a Blagojevich confidant who has seeded the governor's cabinet with former business underlings."

Christopher Kelly, Blagojevich's chief fundraiser, "who also recommended the tollway's executive director for his job, is an investor in at least one Rezko-controlled food firm," the Tribune wrote. On March 16, 2005, the Tribune reported that:

"City officials alleged Tuesday that a minority contractor at O'Hare International Airport acted as a front for a firm run by Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a top adviser and fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagojevich....

"Rezko, a member of Blagojevich's kitchen cabinet of advisers, has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks following questions about his links to operators of new tollway oasis franchises. The revamp of the oases is a showcase project for the Blagojevich administration."

On May 15, 2005, the Sun-Times reported that the accusations by his father-in-law that Blagojevich doled out jobs for campaign contributions had "resulted in dozens of grand jury subpoenas being sent to the governor's office, his unpaid advisers, agency directors and his top fund-raisers".

Among those subpoenaed for documents, sources told the Times, were "Blagojevich's biggest money men, Christopher Kelly and Antoin "Tony" Rezko."

On May 20, 2005, less than a month before Obama bought the mansion, the Tribune reported that Resko, "has had a business relationship with First Lady Patti Blagojevich for eight years, the governor's office acknowledged Thursday."

Six month before Obama bought the strip of land from Rezko's "wife" to enlarge his yard, on August 28, 2005, Natasha Korecki reported in the Sun-Times that, "there's so much corruption to investigate in the Chicago area, the FBI is adding manpower."

Robert Grant, FBI Special Agent in Charge, told the Times that he had reorganized the bureau to add a third public corruption squad, giving Chicago the largest corruption unit in the country, even bigger than those in New York and Los Angeles.

"It is the second time in two years the FBI in Chicago has expanded its public corruption force," Korecki noted.

On November 6, 2006, the Times asked Obama why he did not reveal the land deal with Rezko before it was reported by the Tribune stating: "Why did you not publicly disclose the transaction after Rezko got indicted?"

"At the time, it didn't strike me as relevant," Obama answered. It seems like a lot of events were not relevant a couple months before he announced his candidacy for president.

In the November 2007, Chicago Magazine, James Merriner described a "fashion show" that took place in the first week in November 2006, to benefit St Jude Children's Research Hospital, which he said, "attracted little if any media coverage, which may have been exactly as its organizers and sponsors had hoped."

"The invitation to the affair," he wrote, "offered a veritable guidebook to political influence in Illinois, much of it centered on one St. Jude benefactor, Antoin "Tony" Rezko."

"Just three weeks earlier," Merriner pointed out, "Rezko had been indicted on charges of extorting kickbacks from businesses seeking contracts from the Blagojevich administration."

The "fashion show" was chaired by Rita Rezko, co-chaired by the Governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, and Michelle Obama was a special guest that day, according to Merriner.

Two weeks after the "fashion show," on November 17, 2006, the Sun-Times reported that Blagojevich's wife Patti got nearly $50,000 from a real estate deal in late 2002 involving Rezko.

In terms of dollar amounts of campaign contributions directly from Rezko in Illinois, the top four earners were, the now deceased President of the Cook County Board, John Stroger, Blagojevich, Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley, and Obama - in that order.

Rezko was the head of Stroger's campaign finance committee at the same time that he served on Obama US Senate finance committee.

When it came time for Stroger's reelection campaign, in the midst of the erupting Rezko scandals in the media, on April 8, 2005, the Tribune reported that Stroger "has selected beleaguered businessman and political powerbroker Antoin "Tony" Rezko as one of the honorary chairs of his campaign fundraiser next month."

Stroger appointed Rezko's wife Rita to the Cook County Employee Appeals Board, which hears cases filed by fired or disciplined workers, at a part-time salary of $37,000 a year.

According to documents filed in the Rezko corruption case, this was Rita's sole income when she supposedly came up with a $125,000 down payment and secured a $500,000 mortgage to buy the $625,00 lot next to Obama. Less than a year after Obama bought his strip of land, Rita sold the rest of the lot to attorney Michael Sreenan, and made a profit of more than $50,000.

On February 27, 2007, the Sun-Times pointed out that Obama's "new neighbor, Michael Sreenan," had contributed $5,000 to Obama's campaigns. Less than a year after buying the lot, Sreenan put it up for sale for $1.5 million in October 2007.

Of course John Stroger will not be answering any questions about corruption, or any other matter, because he died on January 18, 2008. His former chief of staff and godson, Orlando Jones, will not be talking either because he was found dead of self-inflicted gun wounds in September 2007, "just as a corruption inquiry targeting him was heating up," according to a September 7, 2007 report by CBS News channel 2 Chicago.

"Jones left his position in county government to create a lobbying firm in association with Tony Rezko, who has been indicted on fraud charges," CBS reported.

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica told CBS that Orlando Jones’ death raised many questions about the Cook County president’s office. “Some of these matters Jones was involved in that are currently being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are reaching to the highest level of county government,” Peraica said.

Obama endorsed John Stroger's son, Todd Stroger, in his bid for Cook County Board President after his father died. Todd was in the news as recently as March 24, 2008, when the Sun-Times published a front-page article reporting that his cousin Donna Dunnings, the county’s new chief financial officer, was receiving a 12% pay increase.

Dunnings’ salary will be the largest increase of any county employee, with the average increase being around 5%. She will make nearly $160,000 with the pay increase, or roughly $5,000 more than her predecessor made at the job, according to the Times.

Mayor Daley endorsed Obama immediately after he announced he was running for president and in return, Obama endorsed Daley's reelection for Mayor right smack in the middle of major federal investigations of corruption in the Daley Administration.

Obama's ties to the corrupt Daley machine began when he was dating his wife Michelle and she brought him into the fold. Valerie Jarrett, the deputy chief of staff to Mayor Daley, hired Michelle as her assistant in 1991. Daley made Jarrett the chairman of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and Michelle worked as her assistant in that Department during 1992-93.

From there Michelle moved up the political tiers to the University of Chicago and ultimately got an overnight pay raise from about $121,000 to close to $317,000, after Obama became a US Senator, as a vice president at the University of Chicago.

Susan Sher, was corporation counsel in the Daley Administration when Michelle was hired back in the early 1990s, and Sher is now Michelle's boss at the University of Chicago, according to the April 22, 2007 Chicago Tribune.

Shortly after Obama entered the US Senate, Michelle was also handed a position on the board of TreeHouse Foods. Wal-Mart is the largest customer of TreeHouse Foods. Factoring in stock options and other payments, the value of her compensation package for serving on the board in 2006 was $101,083, according to the Tribune report.

On May 14, 2007, during a meeting with the AFL-CIO in New Jersey, Obama was asked about Wal-Mart and he said: "I won't shop there." Michelle resigned from the board of TreeHouse eight days after husband said he would not shop at Wal-Mart, CBS News reported on May 27, 2007.

When it came time for Obama's US Senate campaign, Valerie Jarrett became the campaign finance chairman and worked hand and hand with fellow finance committee members, Rita and Tony Rezko, and his former boss at the law firm, Allison Davis, in fundraising endeavors. The committee raised more than $14 million, according to Federal Election Commission records, Tim Novak reported in the Sun-Times on April 23, 2007.

Jarrett is now the CEO of Habitat Co, a real estate development and management firm which manages the housing program for the Chicago Housing Authority, the entity mandated to administer public housing, and she serves as an unpaid advisor to Obama's Presidential campaign.

Mayor Daley's brother Bill also became an Obama advisor. Mayor Daley's chief image defender, David Axelrod, is a top strategist for Obama's campaign and he was also the media consultant for Obama's US Senate campaign.

On April 1, 2007, Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who is now chairman of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Ben Wallace-Wells in the New York Times: “David Axelrod’s mostly been visible in Chicago in the last decade as Daley’s public relations strategist and the guy who goes on television to defend Daley from charges of corruption”.

The scandals involving the Daley administration have no beginning and no end. In January 2004, the Sun-Times published a three-part series exposing widespread corruption in the Hired Truck Program and revealed that some companies were being paid for doing little or no work and that some had mob connections or were tied to city employees.

On January 25, 2005, the Associated Press reported that trucking company manager, John Cannatello, the 16th person charged in the scandal, was charged with getting $6.6 million in city hauling work "by giving campaign contributions and cash to officials and falsely claiming his firm was eligible for jobs set aside for women-owned businesses."

According to the article, city officials said the Hired Truck program, "which at its height doled out $38 million worth of work in one year to contractors without bids, was designed to save taxpayers money by outsourcing hauling jobs that otherwise would require the city to buy trucks and insurance."

On June 6, 2006, the Sun-Times reported that the brother-in-law of Cook County Commissioner, John Daley, was sentenced to 18 months in prison "for taking about $5,400 in bribes to steer city business to a Hired Truck company."

Of course John Daley is another brother of Mayor Daley.

On January 6, 2006, the New York Times ran the headline, "Corruption Scandal Loosening Mayor Daley's Grip on Chicago," and reported that a "wide-ranging federal investigation into what prosecutors describe as "pervasive fraud" in hiring and contracts at City Hall has led to 30 indictments, including two senior administrators close to the mayor, and a dozen cabinet-level resignations. "

The Tribune broke the hiring scandal on April 29, 2005, after federal agents carried out an all-night raid of Daley's patronage office at City Hall and less than three months later, Robert Sorich, the patronage chief in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and three former city officials, were arrested and charged with fraud to rig city hiring for 12 years.

During the criminal trial, prosecutors produced a list of more than 5,700 politically connected job applicants, and Patricia Molloy, a longtime secretary in Mayor Daley's office, testified that aides kept track of applicants and their political sponsors during much of Daley's time in office, according to a July 7, 2006 report by Rudolph Bush and Dan Mihalopoulos in the Tribune.

City officials testified that they "were heavily involved in politics and directed city workers and aspiring public employees to knock on doors and work the phones for political candidates endorsed by the mayor," the July 7, 2006 Tribune report noted.

"Witnesses who marshaled pro-Daley political groups testified that they took campaign orders from top Daley aides," the Tribune wrote, "and later got jobs and promotions from the mayor's office for loyal and effective political workers."

Sorich and three others were convicted on July 5, 2006, of carrying out what prosecutors described as fraud in hiring, "complete with sham interviews, rigged test scores and color-coded charts to track political sponsors," according to the July 6, 2006 Sun-Times.

Chicago attorney, Michael Shakman, whose federal lawsuit against the city led to anti-patronage decrees, told the Tribune on July 7, 2006, that Daley was to blame for the political hiring system. "You have to lay the responsibility squarely at the feet of Mayor Daley," he said. "These [defendants] are his people, who never would have thought of doing this without his approval."

At the sentencing hearing in November 2006, US District Judge David Coar told Sorich: “If I thought that by sentencing you I could stop this type of hiring corruption in the city of Chicago, I would throw this building at you…. But it won’t," the Tribune reported on November 21, 2006.

Obama is a political psychopath. He exhibits no shame, no matter where his money comes from. On September 5, 2007, the New York Post reported that, "Alexi Giannoulias, who became Illinois state treasurer last year after Obama vouched for him, has pledged to raise $100,000 for the senator's Oval Office bid."

"Giannoulias is so tainted by reputed mob links," the Post noted, "that several top Illinois Dems, including the state's speaker of the House and party chairman, refused to endorse him even after he won the Democratic nomination with Obama's help."

If the Democratic party places Obama on the ballot against John McCain, Democratic voters will have no choice in this election. Once the whole truth becomes public, and it will the minute he becomes the nominee, no honest American could support sending Obama and his corrupt gang of cronies to the White House.

evelyn-pringle@sbcglobal.net

(The second article in this series will be "Obama and the Slumlords")

(Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America)



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