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.
• 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 www.ilcampaign.org.
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 www.sudandivestment.org/screener.asp.
• 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.