Mob-loan figure speaks at convention for agent of Hope and Change

Charlie Rangel should really be ticked off after the DNC gave a speaking slot to Illinois state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.  Barack Obama told the Ways and Means chair that he had no room for a few words from Rangel, but instead allowed his friend and fundraiser speak on Obama’s behalf.  Unfortunately, this highlights another embarrassing connection to crime and corruption in Obama’s past, as Giannoulias figured in a series of loans he personally approved to an organized crime figure in Chicago:

According to a Chicago Tribune article from 2006, Giannoulias “has faced questions about the bank’s multi-million dollar loans to Michael Gioranago, a convicted bookmaker and prostitution ring promoter.” Barack Obama was quoted in the article as saying that he “is concerned by revelations that the bank owned by Illinois Democratic treasurer nominee Alexi Giannoulias’ family gave loans to a Chicago crime figure and said the candidate owes him and the public a full accounting.”

And while Giannoulias claimed that the loans to Gioranago were made “before he became a full-time bank employee”, “newly discovered public records show Broadway Bank made $11.8 million in additional mortgage loans to Giorango just last year. Giannoulias said he oversaw the servicing of those loans.”

Giannoulias also appears to have lied about the bank’s financing of a casino boat marina. And in what may or may not be an ugly coincidence, convicted felon Tony Rezko racked up $450,000 in gambling debts by writing bad checks on his Broadway Bank account. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, “Obama kept his 2004 Senate campaign funds” at Broadway Bank as well.

Giannoulias himself has accepted at least one controversial campaign contribution, from Spiros Naos, an owner of a line of gambling cruise ships, who got ownership of the company after his uncle “was gunned down in an execution-style slaying after selling the gambling fleet to a group that included indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff”, according to the Chicago Daily Herald. After initially defending the contribution as one Greek helping another, Giannoulias eventually returned the money once the media began dogging him about it.

I wrote about this strange and murky story last September at Captain’s Quarters.  Giannoulias approved millions of dollars in loans from his family’s bank to Michael “Jaws” Giordano after the latter got convicted on federal charges relating to bookmaking and prostitution in 2004.  The loans paid for a casino fleet in Florida in 2005, an odd risk to take for someone who had a record as a pimp and a bookie.

Giannoulias got such a bad reputation that even senior Illinois Democrats refused to endorse him when he won the nomination for his position.  However, Obama — the supposed “reform” politician — not just endorsed him but helped him to victory.  Obviously, Giannoulias wants to return the favor.

Why would Obama have Giannoulias speak at the convention?  It invites even more scrutiny into the controversy surrounding Giannoulias, and with it a further examination of Obama’s ties to corrupt fixer Tony Rezko, and Joe Biden’s ties to admitted extortionist Joseph Cari.  For a candidate hoping to run on Hope and Change, Obama seems determined to expose himself as a Chicago machine pol with very questionable friends.