Chicago Sun-Times
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Sweet column: Clinton to Obama--Return Rezko campaign cash


COLUMBIA, S.C. -- For the second day in a row, White House hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has prodded chief rival Sen. Barack Obama about his relationship with a former career political patron and friend, Tony Rezko, who is facing a Feb. 25 federal criminal trial in Chicago on public corruption and fraud charges involving state of Illinois teacher pension funds.

On Tuesday, the Clinton campaign, in a memo, said Obama "has thus far failed to return all contributions associated with Mr. Rezko, which included money that was given through straw donors or obtained from Illinois taxpayers."

Clinton was referring to political donations Rezko solicited, or bundled, for Obama's U.S. Senate -- not presidential -- campaign fund.

During Monday's Democratic debate in Myrtle Beach -- in advance of Saturday's South Carolina primary -- Clinton asked Obama about legal work he did for "your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago."

That was a reference to a Sun-Times investigation that revealed Obama clocked five hours of legal chores for Rezko, but more centrally, took political donations from Rezko even as Rezko's low-income housing empire was collapsing.

For months, the Clinton campaign figured that the national press would be more interested in Obama's dealings with Rezko, an insider wheeler-dealer under indictment who, with his wife, played a role in Obama and his wife, Michelle, being able to buy their large South Side home.

Clinton gave back $850,000
In part, the Clinton team figured Rezko would become more of a campaign storyline because the Clintons rarely caught a break when it came to reporting about anything even remotely controversial about their lives.

Clinton returned nearly $850,000 when it was revealed that one of her presidential bundlers, Norman Hsu, was on the lam from criminal charges and may have laundered campaign donations through straw donors.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Clinton's call for Obama to scrub his list for Rezko money "takes a lot of moxie" coming from someone who had to give back $850,000 in Hsu's bundled donations. Asked if more Rezko money would be rejected, Burton said, "we are constantly reviewing our contributions."

Last weekend, the Sun-Times broke a story that Obama was the unnamed "political candidate" who received a $10,000 contribution for his 2004 U.S. Senate run from a person who allegedly got the money through a Rezko-connected scheme. Also, Rezko may have improperly used straw donors to funnel Senate campaign cash to Obama.

After the story ran, the Obama campaign Saturday announced a $40,000 charitable donation in Rezko-related money. Earlier, the Senate fund donated $44,000 in Rezko-connected cash. The Sun-Times estimates Rezko raised at least $168,000. However, the extent of Rezko's help in raising Senate money for Obama isn't known.

There are indications that Clinton and her allies will continue to press Obama on Rezko, especially as the Feb. 5 votes are looming in 22 states and Rezko's trial is near. Meanwhile, Rezko hovers as an issue for Obama if he gets the nomination.

For weeks now, the Republican National Committee has been circulating Rezko clips.


Above and beyond all of the campaigning, the rhetoric, and all of the mudslinging; Hillary is the winning ticket... period. It appears to me that even though Obama is a good man, this is not a popularity contest.Obama is well educated and an eloquent speaker, but eloquent speakers do not run a country. I believe that Obama will be ready for the White House in either 2012 or 2016...but not now. He simply does not have enough experience. In most recent years, America's culture has been celebrity driven, idol impacted, and "let's go for whoever or whatever is most popular".We need leaders in the White House who have the experience and the wherewithal both at home and abroad...Hillary is the only candidate that fits the role.This election is serious business, so I urge the voters to vote with their minds and not their heart!

Ms. Sweet,

I seems to me that if I had a notoriously suspect real estate deal in my past -- one so notorious that its name, "Whitewater", came to serve as shorthand for scandal during a presidential term -- I would do my best to avoid the intersection of real estate and campaign contributions.

But then again, I don't need to drive up Obama's negatives because polls don't show that half of America would not vote for me under any circumstances.


I wonder why Hillary would want to open up a discussion about land deals giving her past dealings.

Why bother with all these Dems.Obama is a senator with a staff of about 20 people.Senators cannot be promoted to president ,the job is way too difficult for that.The president is in charge of thousands of federal employees and 2 million military personel.Governors should get the president's job.They are in charge of thousands of state employees and the national guard and state police departments.They know what to do THEY HAVE EXPERIENCE.Not a senator or First Lady.Kennedy was the only senator-to-president and he was a lously president.(Bad ecomony/world problems/cheated on his wife)
Consider Mitt Romney , he has the experience to get the job done.

Being the wife of a president don't mean you have any experience at being in charge of anything.Hillary has no experience to become president.Iam a wife cannot do my job.For 8 years Bill Clinton did very little as president and I can't remember his wife doing anything.Governors should become president......VOTE FOR MITT ROMNEY!

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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 January 23, 2008 7:10 AM.

Sweet: Tuesday storylines. Obama-Clinton sniping continues. Obama meets up with woman who inspired "Fired Up! Ready to Go! was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet: Obama says clueless about shady Rezko. Plus a flashback. is the next entry in this blog.

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