Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Rod Blagojevich investigation and related cases

Blagojevich witness: Rezko asked me to write $10,000 check for Obama fund

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Reporting with Sarah Ostman

Prosecution witness Joseph Aramanda just testified that Tony Rezko asked him to write a $10,000 campaign contribution check to Barack Obama.

"Isn't it true that Mr. Rezko asked you to make a check for $10,000 out to Friends of Obama?" Rod Blagojevich attorney Michael Gillespie asked.

Aramanda acknowledged the check. He gave $10,000 in campaign cash to Obama's U.S. Senate campaign on March 5, 2004, according to records.

In Rezko's criminal trial, prosecutors said Aramanda got an illegal $250,000 "finder's fee" tied to a state teacher-pension investment deal. Prosecutors also said that Aramanda did no work for the money, and that some of it was used to pay a Rezko debt.

According to prosecutors, it was a portion of that $250,000 that was routed back to Obama's campaign when he was running for U.S. Senate.

Aramanda said Rezko asked him to make the donation for him; it is a violation of campaign finance laws to make straw donations.

Obama -- who's said he had no idea at the time the Aramanda contribution was tainted in any way -- later gave the Aramanda money to charity, as well as tens of thousands of dollars more from Rezko, who was part of Obama's senatorial finance committee.

Aramanda said he remains friends with Rezko, who in 2008 was convicted of corruption under Blagojevich. Aramanda visited Rezko in jail on Jan. 4, 2009 and in February of 2009.

Gillespie is pressing Aramanda on the timing of his statements about the former governor to prosecutors. He said Aramanda's allegation about Blagojevich's involvement with Rezko in siphoning fees from TRS didn't come until after he met with Rezko in jail and after Rezko began talking to prosecutors.

"What could be more substantive than a sitting governor taking payments?" Gillespie asked, noting Aramanda hadn't specified this in one of his debriefings with the prosecution. Aramanda did not answer because the judge upheld an objection.

Gillespie asked if Aramanda heard that Rezko was cooperating back in 2009.

"I can tell you what I heard, it's not that I heard he was cooperating," Aramanda said. "Obviously if he's meeting with (prosecutors) he was talking with them. I don't know that he was cooperating with them."

"Soon after, was the first time you said to anyone this alleged statement that the governor was taking money, correct?" Gillespie asked.

Again, Aramanda couldn't respond because of an objection.

Aramanda didn't testify he knew Blagojevich took money, only that Rezko spoke of an agreement where Rezko, Blagojevich and two others would split proceeds from state deals.

Here's one other small connection between Rezko, Aramanda and Obama: Obama's Senate office hired Aramanda's son as an intern in 2005, at Rezko's urging.
Obama's camp, however, has said that Obama did not know Aramanda personally.

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Bessie, what we are going to witness is more of a negotiation than a trial !

He's taking a page from Nixon...If the President does it, it must be legal...It will be interesting to see how the prosecution tries to shut up their own witnesses by not mentioning Barry.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Natasha Korecki published on June 16, 2010 2:09 PM.

Witness: I met Blagojevich -- and Barack Obama -- at a Rezko fund-raiser was the previous entry in this blog.

Blagojevich trial: Trail of money leads to Patti Blagojevich, Lon Monk is the next entry in this blog.

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