Friday, February 01, 2008


FWIW, lots of people want to know who this Tozy Rezko cat that Bill Barr is talking about is.

Salon has a story about him up.

Who really doesn't see much there there. I pretty much read it and thought "Yep, Chicago politics." It's certainly less exciting than a leading candidate recently using ethnic slurs.

Edited to fix a typo, specifically the one Bill alludes to in the comments.


Bill Baar said...

It's Rezko for those who will be googling him.

I belong to a group blog called Illinoize and have been covering Rezko.

Rich Miller founded Illinoize. He also blogs here on Illinois politics and while fond of Obama has no illusions about him.

Ray Hannaia is an Arab American who covers Chicago and politics and he's written on some of the key players here.

Rezko, as are many of these Chicago area Arab Americans, are Catholics. So I'm always amused at the supposed smear on Obama's middle name.

I'm convinced that's David Axelrod rolling out a false charge to argue over and sidetrack everyone.

Obama's got a middle east connection but to the extent its at all religous, it's Christian... for whatever that's worth... these guys are all dealers in their souls.

The only Muslim link is too Jabir Muhammed who was a neighbor of Obama's and a front for Tony Rezko on shame minority hiring contracts.

Ali Abunimah from Electroni Intifada wrote a revealing account on his acquaintance with Obama.

Obama is far from what he appears. The Salon article is starting to bring that to a wider audience. We've known a long time in Chicago... folks like Eric Zorn over a the Trib or Lynn Sweet who support Obama, are well aware of the problems he's covering up...

The Auchi angle's opened Obama up to the Brits now who are well aware of Auchi.... I think its just the east and west coasts who need a wake up call.

Bill Baar said...

PS... I think the eventual story will be Rezko's links back to Iraq and looting of Iraqi reconstruction. The connection there is Iraq's Minister of Electricity, Rezko's friend Aihm Alsammarae. Fitzgerald is looking into that deal. I think that will be the association that does Obama in eventually.

It's hard to imagine Obama opposite McCain and the talk turns to Rezko and Mike Runman's deals too loot billions out of Iraq.

The consensus seems to be our Gov Blagojevich will be the next one indicted. It's hard to read the profer on Rezko and not see that coming... as Rezko stews in jail now, my guess sooner than expected.

Anonymous said...

But Bill, how do Obama's connections compare to any of his competitors' political alliances? Do they merely tarnish his pop halo, or do they make Clinton seem squeaky clean by comparison? Do they somehow make Obama seem less reputable than the major Republican candidates? Are they reasons not to vote for him? You've never said; you simply keep passing along Rezko's name as if it means or should mean something.

If Obama is "far from what he appears," what is he? Why not come out and tell us what you think rather than deal in perpetual innuendo? Who are you voting for and why?

I read the press coverage last week about Obama's connections to Rezko, and just don't think the story amounts to anything all that shocking or damning.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I hadn't seen your second comment when I posted my questions. I'm still curious how you'd compare Obama to Clinton.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing there but innuendo. Period.

Anonymous said...

Rezko looks like a sleaze, but it seems like a non-issue in relation to Obama. Obama did nothing illegal and if this is the worst of his campaign donors, he'll probably go down in history as the cleanest person to run for the presidency in the last 100 years, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise. And probably the cleanest person to come out of Chicago politics, period. I can't believe you even take this seriously.

Note: I am not an Obama supporter, this is a non-affiliated assessment of the data.

Bill Baar said...

Obama v HRC?

Tough choice but the clearest difference is Obama is pretending there is a lot more then is really there... Sunil Garg, a Chicagoan who would know, wrote this yesterday. Here's the final para... (I'll be back to address more comments but a few balls in air right now).

For those of us with the "audacity" to hope for change and reform in Illinois, Obama has been a disappointment. Obama's actions in Illinois, as opposed to his rhetoric, have repeatedly put personal political expediency and partisan politics before change, principle and reform, and audacity seems only appropriate when there is no political risk to him. At the end of the day, it may be unrealistic to think that Obama would challenge the status quo in his home state and his actions may very well be an example of the old adage that "all politics are local." Yet, that thinking reduces Obama's expansive vision to one where change in Washington becomes the panacea for our nation's problems and where Obama only means what he says in a tiny sliver of land on the East Coast, and that doesn't feel like change, unity and certainly not audacity. One thing seems certain -- voters would do well to take a peak at who from Illinois is on Obama's bandwagon to D.C.

Bill Baar said...

The Trib's Eric Zorn --an Obama supporter-- wrote a good column laying out exactly why this story won't go away, and what Obama needs to do. Zorn: Barack Obama gives the Tony Rezko story the life it has.

I'm guessing Obama doesn't take his advice and as Rezko flips on our Gov and Obama's name gets dragged into it, plus as indictments come out on the Iraqi power plant deals, so much for Obama...

my forecast has been a Gore-Obama ticket in a brokered convention...Obama too tainted for the top, yet Democrats unwilling to snub their most loyal block of supporters.

Supporters who should be looking at Obama's silence on years of torture by Chicago PD unprosecuted by Mayor Daley then State's Attorney...

...but that's another story yet to be told fully.

Comrade Kevin said...

Clinton has never been able to make these allegations stick and the MSM has thus been unwilling to bring it to light in a large way.

I do support Obama. The larger point raised is that is Obama the boy scout, golden boy that we think he is? Knowing humanity as I do, the answer to that is a resounding "no". He is a human so he is flawed.

Then the debate becomes, what flaws are more redeemable than other flaws? Or rather, what flaws are more damning than others? I would say, thus far, the Clintons have far more baggage than Obama, merely because they've been in politics more. I want a fresh face precisely for that reason.

Like CC, I read this story, shrugged, then went on to something else.

For Gore to take control of the nomination, it would take a convention fight. For a convention fight to happen, both Obama and Clinton would have to come out of the primary season both without a clear share of delegates. For Gore to take the nomination, he would have to, of course, be asked and agree to take it.

And since he has asserted numerous times, even telling President Carter to stop calling him to ask him if he'll run, I get the feeling Gore doesn't want it even if he could get it back. He has much more to gain as an elder statesman, Nobel Laureate, and proponent of Climate Change.

It is far too soon to predict ultimate outcome. I am in Obama's corner, but I ain't sayin' for sure whether he'll win or lose. Politics is too uncertain.

Bill Baar said...

I'm just glad Rezko safe in jail thinking about his testimony and not lost in the fog like Alsammarae, with the Blackwater guys, who Maliki said he turned too after his Daughter's Dania pleading to Obama and Durbin to spring him from jail in the Green Zone was for naught.

PG said...


I'm just glad Rezko safe in jail thinking about his testimony and not lost in the fog like Alsammarae, with the Blackwater guys, who Maliki said he turned too after his Daughter's Dania pleading to Obama and Durbin to spring him from jail in the Green Zone was for naught.

Does the above honestly sound to you like a clear and cogent explanation of why Obama is a bad candidate? Because to me it just comes off as more innuendo of the type the other commenters complained about.
Vague references to Blackwater (who are associated with Bad), mention of some guy named Alsammarae (don't know who he is), and concluding that Obama is a hard hearted bastard who failed to spring whatshisname from jail (if his daughter was pleading for him, he must not have belonged there!).

The difference between information and innuendo is that someone who gives information leaves his readers knowing more than they did before. Innuendo, in contrast, just builds confusion. The Salon article at least informed me of one solid fact I hadn't know, which is that Jabir Herbert Muhammad was boxer Muhammad Ali's business manager.

Reading the Electronic Intifada piece was interesting after having just read on a rightwing site about how Obama's adviser Samantha Power (famous for her book on genocide) is really an anti-Semite, and so is his pastor.

Bill Baar said...

Alsammarae was a classmate of Rezko's at Illinois Institute of Technology. They're old friends.

Alsammare was active in the anti-sanctions movement to lift sanctions on Iraq pre-invasion. You'll see him as a speaker here. Alsammarae was on the board of the Arab American Anti-Defamation league.

Bremer picked Alsammarae as interim Minister of Electricity for Iraq. That was a bad move because Alsammarae sought to cut a deal with Rezko and our Governor's former Dirctor of Budget, Mike Runman, to do kick backs on power plant deals.

Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating this now. (A good Obama question is would he keep Fitz as Fed Attorney in Norther Illinois!)

Alsammare was convicted on corruption charges by the Iraq Governement which imprisoned him in the Green Zone. Alsammare broke out allegedly with the help of blackwater and returned to Chicago claiming to have escaped Iraq the "Chicago Way".

I've been following Alsammare for some time now on my blog.

You'll note a picture of Illinois's Gov Blagojevich, Mr. Auchi, the Iraqi billinaire who wired Rezko the $3.5 million that landed him in jail as a flight risk, and Alsammare back at a dinner in Chicago in 2004.

Nibras Kazimi confirmed in was Alsammare in the picture. Brian Ross at ABC had mistakenly identifed him as Rezko (although Rezko was probably there too).

Anyways, Kazimi connects a lot of dots yesterday with this post: Obama’s Saddam Connection?

This is the story that will slowly unfold about Obama and if he gets the nod; it will destroy him as candidate. The notion he would be more electable is foolish I think because this story is all slowly unraveling and it's going to raise the questoin was Obama against the war because he had better judgement, or friends getting funds from Saddam via the oil scams.

The security story in Northern Illinois is interesting. We have Blackwater here now and I suspect that's thanks to the Blagojevich, Auchi, Alsammare, and Rezko friendships.

The probable Democratic candidate in Illinois's 6th CD will probably be Col. Jill Morganthaler. She was Public Affairs Officer for Gen. Sanchez in Iraq during Abu Garib. She returned home to Illinois and became Homeland Security Director where she offered sites Companion Security to train Iraqi security guards. Campanion owned by Rezko and an ex-Chicago cop with a $50 million contract from Iraq's security ministry through Alsammarae.

So you can see this stuff is really complicated but there is more than innuendo here.

Obama refuses to discuss it and his friends in Illinois are telling him that's a huge mistake.

PG said...

"it's going to raise the questoin was Obama against the war because he had better judgement, or friends getting funds from Saddam via the oil scams."

Huh? I thought you were saying that the overthrow of Saddam allowed Obama's friends to make money through contracts with the new Iraqi government.

"Bremer picked Alsammarae as interim Minister of Electricity for Iraq. That was a bad move because Alsammarae sought to cut a deal with Rezko and our Governor's former Dirctor of Budget, Mike Runman, to do kick backs on power plant deals."

Which is it?

Personally, I'm aware that certain kinds of people always have their bread fall butter-side up, and no matter who is nominally in power, they will be the guys making money one way or another.

As for why Obama doesn't discuss this stuff, I'm really confused as to why it's any of his business. The only person with whom he has a connection is Rezko. Rezko has a big network of sketchy, but you have given no explanation of how Obma is directly connected, himself, to Alsammarae, Auchi, Blackwater, Blagojevich (beyond his being the governor of IL, obviously), Morganthaler, et al. All you've given is guilt-by-association, which is an improvement on innuendo but not by much.

The reason this stuff is "complicated" is that Rezko is the only known connection, and you have to draw a lot of lines from him rather than from Obama. Rezko's fundraisers for Obama may have involved lots of sketchy folks, but as I tried to point out earlier, we cannot force candidates to rely on private fundraising and then expect them to track down every dollar.

If there's an issue here, there's a reason the Clintons haven't hammered it in the last few days before Super Tuesday: their own fundraising history is dubious enough that they're not going to throw that stone. McCain, meanwhile, is one of the Keating Five; he might have gotten born again on campaign finance reform, but he's not going to be able to nail either Clinton or Obama on it because he's got a big ol' skeleton in his closet. (Romney doesn't, but then you need a backbone to have a skeleton.)

The post you're praising asks, "What if there had been an Obama-Auchi meeting that may have been arranged by Rezko?"

Sure, and WHAT IF Obama eats human fetuses provided to him by Rezko? That's definitely going to haunt him in the general election.

Bill Baar said...

Which is it?

With these guys, both!

Auchi did't get to be the 7th richest guy in the UK without figuring how to work everything to his advantage no matter who won or lost.

As for why Obama doesn't discuss this stuff, I'm really confused as to why it's any of his business. The only person with whom he has a connection is Rezko.

Alsammarae's daughter said she was in contact with both Durbin and Obama's staffs.

Alsammarae lead the Arab American Anti Defamation league here in Chicago and Obama was very involved with their cause then.

Obama as a member of Senate Foreign Relations would have some opinion on extraditing an Iraqi minister (appointmented by a US proconsul of sorts for that matter) back to Iraq for crimes.

Auchi was involved in real estate deals on Chiago's south side.

Obama at the very least should comment on keeping Fitzgerald in place.

Rezko will talk to avoid prison. There are recorded calls... it's all going to come out, and I don't think Obama will be untouched by it.

The only thing working against it is this is one of those affairs where a lot of people across the political spectrum have left their foot prints. But I think it's too late, and Fitzgerald one dogged prosecutor.

PG said...


As I said, these are butter-side-up guys. If you can't even claim that Saddam's overthrow actually disadvantaged Rezko's friends, rather than simply changing how they made their money, the whole "Did Obama oppose the war b/c Saddam's overthrow would disadvantage Rezko's friends?" question is rather pointless.

Alsammarae's daughter said she was in contact with both Durbin and Obama's staffs.

Well, sure. If my dad has trouble getting visas for relatives to come to the U.S. for my wedding, he's going to be contacting his reps too. (And as a Republican in Texas, he's given money directly or indirectly to his Congressman, both senators and the current president.) Part of what gets people reelected is constituent service. And you said Alsammarae's daughter hadn't succeeded in her pleas, so again, where's the beef?

Obama at the very least should comment on keeping Fitzgerald in place.

Fitzgerald is favored on the left for his dogged prosecution of Libby. He's unlikely to be targeted for dismissal in Obama's administration the way Bush targeted specific U.S. attorneys while keeping others. However, Fitz may go with a general house-cleaning of U.S. attorneys (like what Clinton did in an en masse firing at the start of his administration). For Obama to say that he specifically would keep Fitz and then for him to fire the others would look like favoritism toward the guy who prosecuted Libby, and you can bet Republicans would howl about it.

I am not sure you've thought through the political ramifications of how you expect this great downfall of Obama to go. I am sure like any other sleaze, Rezko will talk to avoid prison, but what do you think he's going to say about Obama? Do you think he's going to claim that Obama helped Rezko get contracts while Obama was a state senator? Fitzgerald is prosecuting Rezko for specific crimes -- this ain't Ken Starr using any angle he can find to get Clinton. Fitz doesn't have a partisan vendetta against Obama, so far as I know. Why do you think his prosecution of Rezko will show wrongdoing by Obama?

Bill Baar said...

PG, you really need to understand Illinois and Chicago.

Democrats and Republicans are united in this state as a combine. A name given them by Tribune Columnist John Kass a few years ago.

Patrick Fitzgerald was brought to Norther District by then Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (no relation). Peter F a mavrick Republican hated by the Republican establishment under Denny Hastert. The same Hastert who called McCain a Republican by the way a few days ago.

Pat Fitz preceded to convict our previous Repulican Gov George Ryan, and also many of Mayor Daley's lieutenants and the Mayor's patronage chief: Bob Sorich.

Fitzgerald is almost certainly going to get Mayor Daley and our current Gov Blagojevich (Public Offical A in the Rezko profer).

The rumor here in Illinois was Daley would use his friendship with Bush to get Fitzgerald removed, but that hasn't happened.

McCain by the way is committed to keeping Fitz while Romney has said he would get rid of him. No one asks Democrats.

I'll answer your questions in the last paragraph over on my blog. CC has been a gracious host, but this may be a limit.

PG said...

The proffer's references to "political candidate," which is supposed to be Obama, are as follows:

"Another $10,000 of the $112,000 transferred into the pizza company’s bank account was
used to make a political contribution in Individual D’s name to a political candidate. Rezko was a fundraiser for that political candidate and directed at least one other individual to make a political contribution to that same candidate, which Rezko then paid back."

That's it. One paragraph on page 36 of a 78 page indictment. And it's one that's about fundraising, which you said, in a previous ChaliceChick post's comment thread WASN'T what you thought the issue would be.

I find this frustratingly circular. Sure, slimy guys gave Obama money. Unless you're going to claim that Obama knew about the slime, he is not going to look any worse than the Clintons, with their bad fundraising history, or McCain, one of the Keating Five. It's quite difficult to become a U.S. senator or president, in a country without purely public funding for campaigns, without having some sketchy people kick money your way.

You say I don't know Chicago and Illinois politics, which is fair -- I don't. However, I do know what the fundraising histories of Obama's current opponents are, and they're no cleaner than Obama's. If Obama doesn't get criticized by the Senate Ethics Committee for his, he's doing better than McCain. Again, there's a reason that Clinton went after Obama's Rezko connection as "you worked for a slumlord!" instead of "you got money from a criminal." She knows she's living in a glass house on this issue.

You've gotta come up with something clearer about Obama's wrongdoing than that he got money from slimeballs, for it to be useful to his opponents.

Bill Baar said...

Just watch the Obama Clock PG...time and Patrick Fitzgerald, and Auchi's loans to Illinois Democrats for defense attornies will tell.