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Sweet: Obama and his taking questions about Rezko.UPDATE

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SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—On Sunday, the chief strategist for the Obama campaign disagreed with my conclusion where I wrote that Obama has not talked to reporters who know the Tony Rezko story the best.

For more than a year, that has been a pretty small group of investigative journalists—from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. I checked with the Sun-Times reporters before I wrote my column and rechecked again. They all said they have never had a chance to discuss Rezko with Obama.

UPDATE 1
Obama communications chief Robert Gibbs makes the following points:
1. Obama appeared before the Sun-Times editorial board (it was late November or early December 2006) and was asked, Gibbs recalled only one Rezko question.

2 .That on Nov. 5, 2006 the Sun-Times ran a story by Dave McKinney and Chris Fusco that was based on a written Q&A exchange. The lede: Obama "expressed regret late Friday for his 2005 land purchase from now-indicted political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko in a deal that enlarged the senator's yard. "I consider this a mistake on my part and I regret it," Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times in an exclusive and revealing question-and-answer exchange about the transaction.

Gibbs said this rebuts a comment (after the click) from one of my colleagues about "who knows" who really provides these written replies and deserves a correction. There have been several rounds of e-mail exchanges over the months.

END UPDATE 1

There have been two times where Obama took questions on Rezko reporters—in Waukegan, Ill. in November, 2005 (transcript is reposted below) or LINK where none of the investigative reporters were present (SEE UPDATE TWO ON WHO WAS THERE) because Obama commented after a political event. There was also a hastily arranged April, 23, 2007, session where Obama talked to some Chicago reporters. The YouTube clip is from NBC5 and the Chicago Sun-Times.

UPDATE 2 Gibbs notes that Sun-Times reporter Chris Fusco--on the Rezko investigative team-- was at the Waukegan availabiltiy and Sun-Times reporter Tim Novak, another Rezko team member--was at the April press conference. There was an attempt to get Novak on the phone with Obama that day, but it was very last minute, Gibbs had told me previously.

Gibbs asked for a correction. I don't think one is needed. Instead these updates--amplifications-- are in order because the information helps provide a fuller picture.END UPDATE 2

Here what David Axelrod said on Sunday, during an interview on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: Before you go there, David, let me just follow
up on one point, because Lynn Sweet writes in the Chicago Sun-Times, I
believe it was yesterday, that in fact Senator Obama has not sat down
with the Chicago reporters who are most familiar with the Rezko case.
Is he willing to do that, or is Ms. Sweet wrong, in your opinion?

AXELROD: I think she is wrong. We've talked to reporters from
-- and he's talked to reporters from both papers several times in
several sessions about this, and each time the conclusion is the same:
There's no evidence of any wrongdoing related to Mr. Rezko.

I showed the above to the reporters who cover the Rezko-Obama story.

For the record, here’s what they said.

Sun-Times Reporter Tim Novak
“David Axelrod has never talked to me, Fusco or Mckinney about Obama. Neither has Obama.
All we've gotten are responses to written questions, and who knows who actually answered those. And occassionally we talk to (Bill) Burton.
But the point is that Obama himself has never sat down and discussed these questions about Rezko.”

Sun-Times Reporter Chris Fusco
“Tim is absolutely right about that one.”

Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney
“Well, I know Chris and I have never had a sit-down interview with Obama. Axelrod might be referring to the December 2006 Q and A, but as you know those were written questions and written responses. I believe Tim's experience was identical when he wrote about Rezko's slum properties. Axelrod would have been more accurate, perhaps, had he said today that Obama has "communicated" with reporters (through spokesmen and a Q and A). But he hasn't spoken to us directly about this. You are right. Axelrod is wrong.”


Sun-Times Political Columnist Carol Marin recalls when Tim Novak broke his first major piece on Rezko’s slumlord holdings in Obama’s state senate district, Obama’s campaign delayed providing substantive answers for weeks.


REPOST OF NOV. 7, 2006 OBAMA ON REZKO Q&A

The Obama Chronicles: Waukegan interview transcript.

On Rezko, mistakes and being held to a high standard.
After a month long blitz--selling his new book, stumping for Democrats, testing the water for a 2008 presidential run, Sen. Barack Obama on Monday traveled to Waukegan, Ill. to stump for a House candidate. He found himself answering questions about a real estate deal he made with a local shady developer named Tony Rezko. Rezko was recently indicted on corruption charges.

Obama, on the road to the White House, will have to run in the primary of public perception, just like his rivals and the Rezko episode is at the least a learning experience for him.

Obama, in a session with local reporters said "I'm human like everybody else and I'm going to make mistakes."

click below for excerpt of the question and answer session at the Waukegan airport.
(for full background read Sunday's Sun-Times story by Chris Fusco, Dave McKinney and Mark Brown at
(http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/124189,obama05.article)

excerpts from the Waukegan question and answer session. ....

What in the world were you doing in a real estate deal with Tony Rezko?

Look, I bought a house. He bought a piece of property next to the house, and that transaction was entirely separate. But what is true is I purchased a 10-foot strip alongside that property from him, and although I paid more than the appraised value of the house, I think it's fair to say that, given some of the issues that were going on with him, it certainly raised the kinds of appearances that I should have been mindful of.

Why'd you do it then?

For the last 10 years, I think people who have worked with me know that I try to maintain the highest standards in how I deal in my personal and public lives. I don't accept lunches with lobbyists. If I play golf with somebody I reimburse them. In this situation, my focus was more on making sure I was paying a fair market price and not thinking through sort of how it potentially would appear. As I said in the newspaper it was a mistake. Not one of my smarter moves.

Did you recruit Tony becuase you needed him. . . . It sounded like you were only going to get (your house) if you had somebody buying the other lot?

No, no, no. I didn't recruit Tony. What happened was I saw this house. . . . We went through our real estate broker. And We put in a bid on the house the way any other purchaser would. The adjoining lot., there was already a bid on that lot. The sellers were the ones who had separated them, and Mr. Rezko became interested in that other lot, and he bid for that lot separately and negotiated with the seller separately.

Did you pay $300,000 less because of connections or clout, or anything Rezko did?

No. Nothing at all related to the purchase of my house involved Rezko. . . . The adjoining lot had already gotten an offer for the list price, which was 600-something-thousand. So the seller already had that in hand. The problem was they needed to sell the house. They were moving, and, so, this was to some degree a fire sale situation for them. They had gotten a new job. They were moving to Maryland. And so they needed to sell the house. That's the reason, as is true in any real estate market, if somebody needs to sell then you've got a little more leverage over them.

So there was no involvement with Rezko in the purchase of the house. . . .

Q: How did it happen that Tony just so bought the lot next to your home?

What happened was . . . Rezko's been a longtime developer in Kenwood. He's got property all across the Kenwood area. When the house came on the market, I asked a number of people about the house because I've never bought a house. I'd owned a condo. And I called a number of friends -- four or five friends -- who either had homes in Kenwood or were familiar with development in Kenwood. Rezko was one of those people. It turned out that the person who had renovated the house which I was interested in purchasing had worked with Rezko in the past, so that was the connection. He [Rezko] ended up looking at the property and became interested in it. But as I said it was negotiated entirely separately. It wasn't something that we were coordinating in any sort of fashion.

The reason we ended up having the same closing date -- that was actually a requirement of the sellers' because the seller was trying to . . . they had conditioned the sale of one lot on the sale of the house.

What do you say to people that your judgment is faulty?

I'm human like everybody else and I'm going to make mistakes. One of the things that I've prided myself on is when I make a mistake, I own up to it. . . . Although I made a mistake in terms of not being attentive to appearances, in terms of the actual transactions themselves, there was no quid pro quo, there was no clout involved. . . . The problem here was you had somebody who was doing state business, who had been a contributor of mine. While I paid more than the appraised value, it's understandable people . . .

Did you know he was under investigation at that point?

Obviously, things had surfaced. But this is somebody I had known for quite some time. He had never asked me for anything. I'd never done anything for him. We had never discussed government issues. But, look, I think it's fair to hold me to a higher standard. And I understand, at this point, I have been in the public eye quite a bit. I'm somebody who's taken the lead both in Springfield and at the federal level on ethics issues, and I think it's entirely appropriate for folks to expect more. . . .

Was the person you were bidding against for your property the same person Rezko was bidding against?

No. No.

How do you know that?

Well, I don't know it for certain, but I don't think so because my broker did not indicate they were the same party.

So there's no way -- either directly or indirectly -- that you knew how much money Tony was offering for his property?

I had no idea whatsoever.

Did you coordinate your bids?

No.

Why did Tony end up paying full price if it were such a fire sale?

There were two separate lots. [On the first lot], there was already a bid for the full price. They already had a bid on the table for that full price.

What have you learned from this?

One of the things that I've always prided on myself is the fact that I have never had any questions about my integrity and how I conduct myself in public office. . . . This is the first time this has happened, and I don't like the feeling. It's frustrating to me, and I'm kicking myself about it. But, as I said, look, I'm going to make some mistakes every once in a while. These aren't mistakes that involve the public trust. They aren't mistakes that involved my responsibilities in terms of representing my constituents. But, one of the things you purchase when you enter into public life is there are going to be a different set of standards, and I'm going to make sure from this point on I don't even come close to the line.

Will this come back to haunt you?

I'm in politics, so anytime you make an error that's something that somebody will be sure to remind you of in the future. And I don't think that's illegitimate. You have to be held accountable for what you do. . . . What I assume is in any election, people look at you in the whole. . . . Here's one time where it appears that he didn't pay enough attention to what the situation was, but hopefully people will judge me on my entire record. And I'm very confident that when they do that, they'll end up feeling I'm somebody they can trust.

Will your groundsman keep cutting the lawn?

. . . . We don't know exactly who is making decisions on behalf of the various properties that are involved. We've talked to the property manager that we have been communicating with, and we just want to make sure of is everything is as separate as possible.

So you're not going to mow his lawn anymore?

No. Here's the problem: the lawn is right next to our house, so I want to make sure somebody mows it. Originally, their intention, as I understand it, was to develop townhomes. They've got to get some sort of curb cut. . . . Right now, they don't have an entry. . . . I could seal off the fence and have people climb over with the lawnmower, but that's probably not . . .

Are you running for president?


After Tuesday, I will have the opportunity to sit down and think about how I can be most useful. That's a conversation that I, first and foremost, have to have with my family, with my pastor. It's also something that I need to have conversations with key people in Illinois because, after all, I'm an Illinois senator, and I think it's very important for me to make determinations in terms of whatever plans I have doing right by the constituents who put me in office.


Sun


26 Comments

This all seems like a big non-issue to me. If people are going to make a mountain out of this molehill, then maybe reporters should once again start dredging up the word "Whitewater" in front of Hillary Clinton.

For days I've been getting e-mails from the Clinton campaign which are trying desperately to link Obama to Rezko in an attempt to tarnish his image. If this is all that her camp has to use as ammo, then things must be really desperate for her.

I am as-yet undecided on who I am going to vote for in the primary, but I can say that this faux-scandal hype being amplified by the Clinton camp is leaving a bad taste in my mouth and pushing my voting hand toward Obama. It really amplifies her desperation.

I feel we should stick to the issues that *really* affect the nation.

Hello,


1) I AM NO LONGER A DEMOCART ( I changed my affiliation last friday), the amt of cover up for SAINT OBAMA IS TOO MUCH FOR ME!!!!!

2) the amount fo sexism allowed is unbelievable, I am a minority former democrat woman...I GUESS ITS OK TO BE A SEXIST BUT NOT A RACIST???

3) If this joke of a democratic party is dumb enough to make Saint Obama the nominee, then I WILL VOTE FOR MCCAIN.....( can you imagine a private in the army given a general's job within one year of joining the army)????????????
And I AM GUESSING ALL THOSE GENERALS THAT ENDORSED HILLARY WILL STAY SILENT OR ENDORSE MCCAIN.....i gurantee they will not endorse obama!!!!!

At least with Mccain I get the sense he will do what he feels is for the good of the country, OBAMA will only do what is good for him!

I wonder what else OBAMA has lied about?

It does not surprise me that Obama doesn't want to speak to reporters.. He will have to now with the court case happening. http://www.timesonline.co.uk Haas a story that states Obamas fundraising friend Rezko recieved a 3 million dollar loan from businessman Mr. Auchi for a property deal. Three week later Obma takes Rezko to a walk though the house and then Obama purchases the house. Shortly after Rezko wife ho states earns $35,000 purchases the lot next door and sell half to Obama. Seems to me something shady in Chicago. More and more Obama is looking like a calculating politician.

Interesting how all of the campaign cash isn't mentioned. Interesting how the meeting in 'the house' isn't mentioned. Most interesting is Obam's denial on national tv during the debate with Clinton that he even knew him.

Before we jump ship to the Clintons, which is what they hope their smear campaign will cause us to do, do a little bit of reading up on Tony Rezko. Right now the media is focusing on Obama, but he actually has ties to several politicians, including the Clintons. Do a search on Tony Rezko on wikipedia:

Rezko has raised funds for many politicians, both Democrats and Republicans. These include prominent Democrats [6], such as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich,[7] Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Comptroller Dan Hynes, former Cook County Board President John Stroger, and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.[citation needed] Rezko has also raised money for former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, a Republican, and he co-chaired a megamillion-dollar fund-raiser for President George W. Bush in 2003.[

Yet we wait for info/cases concerning norman Hsu and 300k check
from Chinese Army. Why does the Bush Administration protect
the Clintons so much?

Ms. Sweet, I would like to thank you for your continued reporting on this and other issues related to the campaign. Keep up the good work.

I think Obama should be investigated to the fullest, because it is better to be safe then Sorry! This country has been through enough, & if he is a crook, we shouldn't wait until he's in the White House... & find out the Hard Way, that we Trusted in the wrong candidate!
I say to one & all "DIG DEEP" & find out the facts now!

Compare Tim Russert's coddling of Obama on Rezko to his grilling of Guiliani on Bernard Kerik:

http://lesstalkmoreactivism.blogspot.com/2008/01/gerber-baby-for-president.html

Remember Giuliani was not implicated in Kerik's indictments, and that, while Kerik is indicted for serious crimes, at least Kerik did some public good as head of a successful police department. Russert did his job with Rudy. With Obama, Russert makes Rezko (the 'collector of politicians') sound like some benevolent 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' mentor. One of the most blatant cases of soft-ball coddling of a major Presidential candidate you'll ever read.

Considering the major issues facing our nation-your consistent overkill on Obama-Rezko is
way overdone; it is really a relative non-issue; why not focus on candidates' views on isues?
It's gotten so that I and many others skip over your redundant column.

Lynn,

Thank you for some great reporting. I think you are the only reporter on the "scene" that is asking questions we need answered.

If Obama wants to be taken seriously, he needs to take these issues seriously and answer the tough questions *in person* now. Things have changed and new things have come to light. He can't rely on speeches or written communications given years ago to defend himself.

I think we all know how true that SNL skit portrayed the media and their relationship with Obama, it is good to see you don't have any pillows or are drinking the kool-aid.

Keep up the great work. We need someone like yourself to test this person. Being the next President of the United States is a serious thing and we can't make assumptions about him, we need the truth.

Regards,

Jim

It's amazing how much of the press has given Obama a free pass in this campaign. If Obama doesn't clear this thing up now and decisively, then McCain will eat his lunch and win the Presidency in November.

Ms. Sweet, what is the point in this? I do not see the journalism in here. Are you just bitter that he will not give you interview time? Show me the beef! Where is the beef? I am waiting for the prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, no pinky-whimppy lily to tell me what he has found. Your opinion matters little.

thank you so much, lynn, for continuing to dig deeper for the truth on this guy, obama. why is he getting so testy ? why doesnt he just answear the questions until there arent anymore ? why doesnt he feel the need to clear his name once and for all if it can be cleared? i will tell you why, he is into this rezko thing so much there is no getting out and the american public needs and deserves the truth about him. this is the man that would be the president ? keep on his trail, hound him until he cracks, please !

If this is such a BIG issue, why am I only reading it in the Sun-times. Why isn't CNN covering it heavily...shoot Fox news isn't even covering it that much! To me this it just seems funny only the Sun times and Lynne Sweet is making such a big issue that no one else seems to care about.

I'm an Obama supporter. If you have something on Obama/Rezco that shows a quid-pro-quo for favors granted, please print it. We'd all like to know before a Democratic nominee is selected. If you're just hunting and pecking, do your investigative journalism but don't make this part of the campaign. It's almost like you've all decided that Hillary is right and you've been too soft on Obama. Should you not have been this demanding before the Illinois primary?

Have you investigated to see if there is a common connection between Senator Obama, Razko and Exelon. The reason I ask is the weak and ineffective legislation by Senator Obama concerning the radioactive leak in Illinois. Why did he even bother? He is either a very ineffective legislator or he was bought off by someone. Both possibilities have tremendous implications for his qualifications to be president. The average American is not protected by this legislation. As an independent, I had hoped to be able to vote democratic for one of several worthy democratic candidates but I am very concerned about what changes Senator Obama will bring to Washington. It is not that long ago that President Bush promised change in Washington and we see what damage he has caused. Can the press not help us take a hard look at what qualifications a candidate brings to this job instead of focusing on soft rhetoric and a story that is really meaningless?

NBC news can longer be considered a credible news source. Apparently they are in the tank for Obama hoping if he becomes president, they will have the same access like fox has with Bush. Thereby increasing their ratings and incomes. America needs an objective press, not one that is looking out for their own personal and economic interest. We cannot afford another disaster in the White House! Lets follow any story until it leads to the truth without regard to personal or financial gain in order to avoid any such diasaster. Keep up the good work Chicago Sun Times!

MMIller:
Obama never denied knowing Rezko - he knows he is a sleazy guy - he gave back the money he and his associates donated --

Rezko is on trial not Obama
And as much as Clinton and her supporters may want this to look otherwise - it is simply not the case

If I were a Clinton supporter - I would not want to be dueling donor info -- the Clintons are so dirty it hurts (check out this link for the tip of the iceberg and this is from The New Republic)

http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=076fd56f-4aca-4683-a9d1-3c55d748946e

And as for Clinton being fully vetted - how can one say that?
They haven't released their tax returns
They haven't released the donors to the Clinton Library
They haven't released ANY White House records to back up Hillary's experience claims-
They haven't released any of the health care information from the Hillary committee in the 90's

I heard today thay may release some of her "schedule" from the White House in the next month -- that should satisfy -- NO ONE with a brain

Lynn Sweet and Carol Marin - like their cohort Taylor Marsh - are anti Obama antagonists--- would be more interesting to learn their motives -- and why aren't they interested in finding our some of the above questions -

The Chicago media is frustrated that after 2 years of trying to find something on Obama/Rezko - they haven't been able to

As Obama says in his stump "lets just kill the hope in him"--

Maybe we need new reporters for a new world order --

Alison--you want Obama to win. If he doesn't win, apparently you wouldn't mind McCain? Quoting the New Republic? Check out the "tone" of your rants against the Clintons and the media who are just doing their jobs. The Obama campaign needs to 'tone down' the rhetoric it engages in against the news media. The ham-handed approach to the media when there is an indictment of the man who started Obama's political career needs to be revamped from top to bottom if he is to EVER run for the highest office. This is tragic.
The campaign KNOWS that much of the nastiness has come not from the Clintons, but from Republican operatives. Did we learn nothing from the cointelpro era?

I must say, that I have a very queasy and uneasy feeling about just WHO Obama really is. I have seen and read some very disturbing claims about Barack Obama, but NOT thru the MSM. Now that we're midway thru the nominating process, the media wants to take a closer look at the man?! I'm mad as hell that the media either won't or can't ask the very hard hitting questions of the man who could potentially become the President of the United States of AMERICA!! My eyes have been opened to the fact that the MSM is not only biased, but also have their own agenda. The media controls what information gets out to the American people...that's a good thing. But more importantly, they have also controlled what information does NOT get the American people...that's a bad thing. By controlling what information about the candidates, that does or does not get reported tells me that we, the people, do not REALLY choose who our next President will be. We are only pawns in the voting process and the media allows us to THINK or to BELIEVE that we are in control of who our next President will be. To that I say, thank God for the internet. The internet has proven to be an important tool for getting ALL the information out to the public. Unfortunately, not everybody uses the internet to get the information for themself. Many rely on the biased, lazy, political, and self serving MSM.
And we call this America? Sounds more like China to me!!

Lynn,

Thank you for being the ONLY journalist being a true journalist when it comes to Barry O.

He has been Chicago "city slick", arrogant, elusive and a liar throughout his entire political life.

Barry O never gives credit to those who help him and is an arrogant, anti-female candidate.

He and Rezko were in bed together on more than the home and land purcahse and also sought to build nuclear power plants in Iraq. In addition, Rezko funneled money from others for Barry's political career through fundraising, some with terroristic ties.

When is this non-patriot, arrogant, city slick, crook going to drop out of the race?

America is a country that most of us pledge our allegiance to, reference God for (it's even on our money, In God we trust), and he never states God's name in any speeches plagarized or otherwise.

Obama has no substance, is an air head and a disgrace to the Democratic Party.

The real idiot in this scenario is Howard Dean for allowing Obama to file his paperwork to run as a Chicago mob backed candidate.

Response to KGH

What do you know about Rezko and nuclear power plants in Iraq? What nuclear power company was involved?

Lynn,

Please keep digging. There IS more to find. You must do it before it's too late. We must not have a nominee whose reputation is in question. I feel as someone else said...queasy and uneasy about Obama. There is something about him that is not quite right. Please find it!

yes Obama did deny knowing Rezko "that is not the Tony I know"maybe a twin???? and REzmar is company in Iraq own by Rezko
did you know all those "dummy companies" owned by Rezko were run by the son of the NATION OF ISLAM founder???can't wait to see who sings louder...REZKO OR GOV.OF ILL. alot of "missing" senate files love to see records of contributors in 2003..by the way Rezko will not be first pardon..that prize will probably go to Ms.Penny Pritzer ande her $450 million debt to FDIC...for her defunked SUPERIOR BANK IN 2002..but her and her family came up w/$40,000 to Obama between 2002-2004 and her $320 million gift to univ.of chicago in 2002-2003..

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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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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 3, 2008 1:32 PM.

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