When attempting to defuse an embarrassing situation, the best strategies rely on early and full disclosure in the hope that the eventual revelations prove anti-climactic. Barack Obama apparently hasn’t learned this yet, but the Tony Rezko trial may wind up schooling Obama on the principle. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Rezko and his associates provided three times as much money for Obama than the presidential candidate has admitted:
During his 12 years in politics, Sen. Barack Obama has received nearly three times more campaign cash from indicted businessman Tony Rezko and his associates than he has publicly acknowledged, the Chicago Sun-Times has found.
Obama has collected at least $168,308 from Rezko and his circle. Obama also has taken in an unknown amount of money from people who attended fund-raising events hosted by Rezko since the mid-1990s.
But seven months ago, Obama told the Sun-Times his “best estimate” was that Rezko raised “between $50,000 and $60,000” during Obama’s political career.
Obama, who wants to be the nation’s next president, has been purging some of those donations — giving charities more than $30,000 he got from Rezko and three of his business partners referenced in Rezko’s federal indictments. All three attended a lavish fund-raiser Rezko hosted for Obama four years ago.
Obama, however, has kept $6,850 from others who also are referenced in Rezko’s indictments. Obama also has hung on to contributions from doctors whom Rezko helped appoint to a state-government panel involved in some of Rezko’s alleged fraud schemes.
The connections to Obama have received more attention, thanks to the local Chicago media rather than their national counterparts. One of Rezko’s associates turns out to be Ali D. Ata, who worked in Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s administration. Ata now faces fraud charges for writing a letter on state letterhead on behalf of Rezko that lied well enough to get millions of dollars in loans. Rezko brought Ata into Obama’s camp as a contributor.
There is also Joseph Aramanda. He faces no charges in the Rezko scandals, but Aramanda allegedly played a role in a scheme Rezko used to exploit the Illinois state teachers fund. Aramanda also had a son who worked on Obama’s staff, and he also contributed to Obama’s campaign.
All of this — and more — centers on the Rezko-Obama relationship. Obama has tried to minimize his connections to Rezko, understandably, as Rezko sinks deeper into his federal trial. The Sun-Times and other Chicago newspapers keep finding more and more connections and showing that Rezko was more than just a contributor to an election campaign. Obama and Rezko have significant ties, and at the very least it calls into question how Obama could have remained ignorant of his friend’s corruption while at least indirectly benefiting from it.
He might convince people he had no knowledge of it. However, as more connections come to the light, the best he can argue is that he is so naive and unschooled that he couldn’t see corruption where it obviously exists. If so, how can he argue that he’s sophisticated enough to run the nation?
UPDATE: This story comes from June 2007. I didn’t notice that when I first read the story. It’s interesting, though, that no one has thought to follow this up since then, at least not in the national media. I think this shows why the Chicago media displayed such frustration in last week’s press conference in Texas in that their national colleagues haven’t exactly lit up the wires in picking up on their work.