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Sweet column: FTR/A look at Obama's Rezko explanation; Springfield lobbyists; Sudan divestment and citizen reporters putting Michelle on radar.


For the record . . .

Dissecting the explanation of White House hopeful Barack Obama for dealing with the shady Tony Rezko; his dealings with Springfield lobbyists; Sudan divestment; and how a fan blew Michelle Obama's cover in Kentucky.

click below.....

• During an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulous," Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama was asked to explain why he had a "blind spot" and went to Tony Rezko -- under investigation for corruption at the time -- for assistance in buying a house and an adjacent parcel.

Obama: "Well, you know, I think that, you know, we had bought a house for the first time and, you know, we were trying to figure out how to set the whole thing up and, you know, this is somebody that I had known for some time. It was an aboveboard legal transaction. I paid more than the price of the property that I purchased and so the assumption was that this was all aboveboard."

Well said, except that this was not the first time Obama went through the process of buying a residence. Obama and his wife bought a condominium in Hyde Park before purchasing their mansion in Kenwood. Perhaps Obama was making a distinction between buying a condo and a stand-alone home. But Obama was not the first-time residential purchaser he portrayed in the interview.

• In that same interview segment on Rezko, Obama said, "I'm very proud of my ethics record. I mean, I was famous in Springfield for not letting lobbyists even buy me lunch.''

However, Obama had a healthy appetite for money from lobbyists and political action committees while a state senator. Just looking at one of his state senate campaign cycles, in 2001-2002, Obama's state war chest accepted donations from, among other sources, the Manufacturers PAC; the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association; the Illinois Education Association; the Illinois Hospital Association, and the Credit Union PAC. A good place to check out Obama's campaign contribution record as a state senator is

Obama also used lobbyists and PACs to help him raise money for his U.S. Senate run and his Hopefund. Obama experienced a conversion once he decided to run for the White House, changing his policy and declining to take money from currently registered federal lobbyists and PACs. He does take contributions from lobbyists with state clients and from individuals with government affairs jobs.

• On that point, Obama has a big weekend coming up in New Hampshire, and on Monday, he named his Granite State leadership team. Hat tip to Newsday for noticing that Jim Demers, tapped to be a co-chair of Obama's campaign there, is a lobbyist.

• • There is a growing movement to try to pressure the government of Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur through divestment campaigns. Obama and his wife, Michelle, found that one of their Vanguard mutual funds had a small Sudan-related investment. They switched funds. They checked their holdings at

• Here's to the power of citizens who are reporting what they observe in campaigns, adding a new dimension to the 2008 race.

I wrote a column last week mentioning that Michelle Obama's next campaign appearance would be May 19 in South Carolina. That's what I was told by the campaign.

Then I read a comment posted on my blog May 10 by reader Julie George: "Michelle was in Louisville Ky last night and was incredible. She did a Q&A which rivaled any of the presidential contenders."

When I called Michelle Obama's spokesman to find out the situation, it turned out that contrary to what I was told and printed, Michelle Obama was in Ohio and Kentucky to headline fund-raisers. The campaign did not put this out because the events were not public.

The point is that in this era, a presidential candidate -- or spouse -- cannot show up in a town for an event, even if it is closed to the press, and not be noticed. Earlier in his campaign, Obama also left cities he visited only for fund-raising purposes off his schedule. No all the cities Obama visits are noted on his schedule -- and Michelle Obama's schedule includes the places where she touches down, too.


"I paid more than the price of the property that I purchased..."

Hmmm. I thought from media reports that (a) the Obamas paid the original owner several hundred thousand less than the asking price for the mansion, and (b) when they acquired a portion of the adjacent lot from Rezko's wife -- who had paid the original owners their full asking price for the adjacent lot -- the Obamas paid the proportionate amount of the asking price based on the fraction of the lot they received. That doesn't equate to paying "more than the price of the property" in either case.

He keeps trying to get cute. That only compounds the problem. He should know by now that in this age of blogging, etc., he will eventually be called on it. I hadn't even considered this whole Rezko thing such a big deal, but he's doing such a poor job of diffusing it that I'm starting to wonder.

Trotting out some of the old straw horses again just for fun, eh? I think some of us are starting to think that you must just be doing this to increase traffic. Or you're a big fan of Andy Martin (just kidding on that one.) He's sure becoming a big fan of yours.

Let's see. Obama says "house" and means "house" and you accuse him of hiding a "condo" purchase which presumably was for a far less expensive property.

Obama says he was famous for, in essence, not accepting personal perks from lobbyists and you claim he's being disingenuous. However, he's never claimed he didn't take campaign contributions from lobbyists prior to this current campaign. Your point?

Is his co-chair in NH currently a registered lobbyist? Or did he, like New England Finance Chair, Alan Solomont, give up his lobbyist registration upon joining the campaign? And, regardless, if Demer's is not donating money personally, then there is no conflict by the terms laid out by the campaign. Sure, as the campaign has honestly said itself, this is not a perfect symbol. But, at least it's a start.

And the Obamas are somehow at fault for divesting to be in line with their values? No idea what that one's about.

Finally, have you noticed how many people show up for campaign events where Barack is going to be? If all events were fully promoted, the campaign would have a serious PR issue if they had to explain to thousands that a certain event is private. These events aren't secret as you say. So, they're simply not promoting these appearances as "public" events. Makes perfect sense to me.

I'm sure I'll see these same empty criticisms again soon. But, it'd be a heck of a lot more fun if you came up with something new.

Seriously, this is some weak stuff Lynn. You used to be such a good journalist. What happened? This paper in general has really ruined its reputation with its Obama coverage. It's getting embarrassing.

I agree with you Bigdawg. According to all of the media reports that I recall (including the Sun Times), the Obamas paid less than the market price for their home. It is interesting how our hard-hitting national media fails to go after exaggerations and half-truths. Stephanapoulous is not one to ask difficult questions of Democratic politicians nor is Tim "melon-head" Russert. Obama will continue to get a pass from the press until he commits a serious enough faux pas that it can't be ignored. He is most definitely the flavor of the moment. If Obama somehow manages to win the Presidency, my prediction is that he will be the worst President since Jimmy Carter. Except for their skin pigment, they are identical in most ways.

Both Obamas are lawyers. Lawyers are the ones who close and know about real estate deals. If the Obamas had a lawyer other than themselves for the closing, why on earth didn't they go to the lawyer to "figure out how to set the whole thing up." Rezko is not a lawyer and Obama is not credible.

I thought the Obama/Rezko stuff would be damaging for him, but his generally clean (not in the Biden reference...) answers on the topic, along with the failure to uncover any real dirt on it, means that this whole posting is a lot of hot air. No more Obama smears, please.

It is because they are both lawyers, so they definitely know how and where to hide things. Having things on the hush, hush is what is so disturbing , to me. But , don't worry things always come out in the end.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on May 17, 2007 4:22 AM.

Lots to digest: new Ohio poll from Quinnipiac U. shows Clinton ahead in Dem primary. But Obama could hold own with Giuliani. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet column: Michelle Obama quits board of Wal-Mart supplier. is the next entry in this blog.

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