With more attention focused on frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama' (D-Ill.) his Chicago links to controversial figures are getting more attention. A primer on Tony Rezko, Austan Goolsbee, William Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Louis Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright.
SAN ANTONIO -- With increasing frequency, Republicans are taking aim at Sen. Barack Obama as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton faces an uphill fight to keep her presidential hopes alive. And several people from Chicago connected to Obama -- with the major figure being the indicted Tony Rezko -- could provide material his foes can use.
If Obama wins the nomination, he will face an onslaught from presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as well as the Republican National Committee, with a research and press operation churning out e-mails about Obama's record. Here's a look at some of the Chicago people who are already in play:
Rezko's trial on corruption charges starts Monday. Rezko has a longtime relationship with Obama. Any mention of Obama in the trial -- he is a side figure -- could have political ramifications for Obama and be grist for ads. While Obama's connections to Rezko have long been the subject of stories in the Chicago newspapers, the trial is the peg for other news organizations to be doing their own examinations.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan
Farrakhan recently offered an unsolicited endorsement of Obama. He is considered by many Jews as an anti-Semite. At the Democratic debate in Cleveland last Tuesday, Obama said he would "reject and denounce" Farrakhan's help.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright
Obama continues to explain to Jewish voters his relationship with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who is retiring from the Trinity United Church of Christ at 400 W. 95th. A magazine connected to Wright honored Farrakhan. Last Sunday, Obama said Wright "is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with."
An economics professor at the University of Chicago, Goolsbee is one of Obama's top economic advisers. Goolsbee is at the center of several news reports -- on Canadian television and ABC News -- dealing with Obama and NAFTA. Obama has said that as president, he would ask Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the trade agreement. The reports finger Goolsbee -- who did visit the office of the Canadian counsel general in Chicago but not to talk about trade -- as being the source of sending the message to Canada that Obama's bark is worse than his bite on NAFTA. (UPDATE FROM PRINT VERSION. To be clear, the initial purpose of the visit was for Goolsbee to take a tour. That did not preclude trade talk from coming up.)
Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said any suggestion that there is a back channel is "ridiculous" and that news reports concerning this have been "debunked" and Obama stands by his statements.
Hyde Park welcomed William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to the neighborhood after they resurfaced as local civic leaders following their years on the lam as members of the Weather Underground. But stories by Bloomberg's Tim Burger and the Politico's Ben Smith have drawn attention to Obama's ties to the former radicals. Ayers is an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a national reputation for studying urban school systems. Ayers served with Obama on the board of the Chicago-based Woods Funds. "While Ayers and Dohrn may be thought of in Hyde Park as local activists, they're better known nationally as two of the most notorious -- and unrepentant -- figures from the violent fringe of the 1960s anti-war movement," Smith wrote. "Obama's relationship with Ayers is an especially vivid milepost on his rise, in record time, from a local official who unabashedly reflected a very liberal district to the leader of national movement based largely on the claim that he can transcend ideological divides," Smith concluded.