"Tony" Rezko Whispers Secrets To Federal Prosecutors

CHICAGO (AP) -- Jailed political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer who helped launch Barack Obama on his political career, is whispering secrets to federal prosecutors about corruption in Illinois and the political fallout could be explosive.

Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose administration faces multiple federal investigations over how it handed out jobs and money with advice from Rezko, is considered the most vulnerable.

Rezko also was friendly with Obama - offering him a job when he finished law school, funding his earliest political campaigns and purchasing a lot next to his house. But based on the known facts, charges so far and testimony at Rezko's trial, there's no indication there'll be a so-called "October surprise" that could hurt the Democratic presidential nominee - even though Rezko says prosecutors are pressing him for dirt about Obama.

"I think this strikes fear into the Blagojevich administration and the Statehouse Democrats but not into the Obama campaign," says state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, a John McCain delegate to the GOP convention but an old friend of Obama.

Rezko, 53, a real estate developer, was convicted in June of scheming to use his clout with the Blagojevich administration to squeeze $7 million in kickbacks out of a contractor and seven money management firms seeking to do business with the state.

Within two months, Rezko was seen in U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald's office, along with his attorneys.

There has been no official confirmation that Rezko is talking but his sentencing has been postponed indefinitely and both sides say they are going to "engage in discussions that could affect their sentencing postures."

"They never would have delayed the sentencing if he weren't talking - it's proof positive," said Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association of Chicago.

In addition, attorneys say federal investigators have been questioning Blagojevich contributions around the state using information that only Rezko could have supplied. Finally, courthouse personnel requesting anonymity because grand jury probes are secret said Rezko has been repeatedly brought from his cell to the U.S. attorney's office to talk to prosecutors.

Rezko could have a lot to tell. He has raised millions of dollars in campaign money for many Illinois politicians and according to federal prosecutors used his clout to control appointments to state boards.

Obama has sent to charity $159,000 that Rezko raised for his campaigns for the state legislature, the House and the Senate. Rezko raised nothing for Obama's White House run.

Obama's name came up in testimony at the trial four times, twice in connection with an obscure legislative memo, as a guest at a Rezko party and when defense attorney Joseph Duffy told jurors his client was a friend of the senator.

None of the witnesses accused the Democratic nominee for president of doing anything improper. In June, Duffy told the Chicago Tribune that prosecutors had not asked him a single question about Obama.

But questions concerning Obama's relationship with Rezko linger, particularly over Rezko's role in the purchase of the Obamas' home.

The two have known each other for years, starting when Rezko offered Obama a job after he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991. Obama didn't take it, but a friendship developed.

The men talked politics frequently and occasionally dined together with their wives.

In 2005, the Obamas paid $1.65 million for their home near the University of Chicago. The sellers wanted a parcel they owned next door to sell on the same day, and Rezko's wife, Rita, was the buyer. At the request of the Obamas, Mrs. Rezko later sold them a 10-foot strip of land to enlarge their lot. They paid $104,500.

The deal took place while Rezko was under investigation and when details of the cozy relationship surfaced, Obama said it was a "bonehead" error to have asked for the additional land because it looked like he was getting a favor.

"I regret it," Obama said at the time. "I'm going to make sure that from this point on I don't even come close to the line."

McCain and vice running mate Sarah Palin have mentioned Rezko little if at all. But Republicans have aired a television ad focusing on Rezko. And McCain aides have repeatedly tweaked their opponent over the real estate deal in e-mails to reporters.

"We're delighted to have a debate on judgment with Barack Obama, who bought his million-dollar mansion in a shady deal with a convicted felon," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said in August.

Blagojevich, meanwhile, got a black eye from the trial.

One witness testified that Blagojevich talked about hiring him for a major state job while his $25,000 donation to the governor's campaign fund was lying on the table.

Two attorneys testified that Blagojevich hinted that they could get lucrative state contracts if they raised money - possibly for a future White House campaign.

Obama's name has not surfaced in accounts of the investigation since the trial. But Rezko himself raised it in a letter to the judge months ago.

"Your Honor, the prosecutors have been overzealous in pursuing a crime that never happened," he wrote. "They are pressuring me to tell them the wrong things that I supposedly know about Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Barack Obama."

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  • by Steve Location: Kinston on Oct 12, 2008 at 05:06 PM
    Devil Dog--I think tht you have me mixed up with another Steve. I place the Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae fiasco squarely on the democrats because they are the ones that created these socialiastic time bombs. Then ,as you have said they tried to keep the floundering behemoths going in 2004-2008 despite warnings as big as the sky. They comprise the corrupt ones. The disgusting ones are the republicans and the democrats who created this mess and are now trying to solve it by using the same socialistic methods that got America in this trouble in the first place. Bush had a republican congress from 2001-2006, yet he presided over the most massive spending spree without a single veto. By the way, I consider you an American patriot. We have a rocky road ahead of us, and I fear that we lack the leadership necessary to make the hard choices needed to bring our economy back from the brink. I fear socialism will be the panacea prescribed by our "leaders".
  • by Blog Refuter Location: NC on Oct 12, 2008 at 04:14 PM
    I wonder if the Repubs are hoping somebody will pressure Rezko into telling a lie.
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Oct 12, 2008 at 02:47 PM
    We all have known Chicago politics are crooked for a lonf time. AND we all know Obama was pushed through the political door in Chicago. Sleep with dogs and you'll wake up with fleas. New York had it's "teflon DON". Chicago has it's teflon Senator, at least for now.
  • by Devil Dog Location: New Bern on Oct 12, 2008 at 01:09 PM
    To VBush..Checkout the condensed analysis of the financial crisis in "Investor's Business Daily". Appears to me at least the following individuals need to initially testify: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin, Andrew Cuomo, Barney Frank,and Chris Dodd. They imlpemented, changed the rules to make FANNIE/FREDDIE a semi-nationalist monopoly, and received kickbacks from FANNIE/FREDDIE. 49% of the $12.5 million foreclosures are minorities, who could not qualify for a mortgage. Instead of helping the minorities it has hurt them. I bet once the election is over, you will hear nothing about the causes, and the whole crisis will be swept under the carpet. Hopefully, the citizens will DEMAND an answer.
  • by VBush Location: MHCY on Oct 12, 2008 at 06:12 AM
    Realist; I guess you 'race card' holders are just never going to get it. You actually have it embedded in your minds that we actually care about that issue. I have said this before, but I will say it again for your benefit since you are obviously behind the times. If Obama were a conservative espousing our ideology and positions we WOULD vote for him. His race would not be an issue. We don't want a liberal socialist in office of any race. So since you are probably one of those that are obviously voting for him because he is black instead of from an actual informed position, you sir are part of the ignorance problem. You care not about the issues, anything is OK as long as a black man wins the Presidency. How pathetic. Unfortunately many of you will go to the polls with exactly that on your minds and only that. Most of Obama's supporters have no idea what he is about, except to say 'he is going to change things'. Obama hasn't specifically said exactly how he plans to do anything anyway.
  • by Devil Dog Location: New Bern on Oct 12, 2008 at 02:49 AM
    To Steve...I guess you haven't been looking into Frannie/Freddy fiasco? The Dems are knee deep in the causes of the mortgage crisis,and are fending off investigations until after the election. CONGRESSES approval rating is 9% and falling. Barney FRANK, Chairman of the Banking and Ffinance committee, and Charles RANGEL, Chairmain of the Ways and Means Committee, do not give most voters a "warm and fuzzy" feeling.
  • by Blog Refuter Location: NC on Oct 11, 2008 at 08:43 PM
    When does the Democratic Party not target the middle and lower class individuals? However, there are plenty of upper-class people on the bandwagon as well! :)
  • by A Realist Location: Greenville on Oct 11, 2008 at 08:17 PM
    Hmm..guess you commenters didn't read the story Resko was quoted as having NO information to "barter" that involved Obama. I know you'll believe what is being fed to you because deep within you rather die than see a qualified black man become president. My suggestion is to try to find a country that is friendly to bigots and start packing your bags now. Obama is going to be the next president of the USA.
  • by Joe Location: Kinston on Oct 11, 2008 at 07:21 PM
    crime in chicago at all time high,under who's watch?Obamas. during the same period of time murders(deaths) in chicago 291 same period Iraq 221 U.S servicemen killed crime,corruption in chicago,ILL out of control.if elected will it expand to the whole U.S?
  • by Steve Location: Kinston on Oct 11, 2008 at 05:29 PM
    The American patriots have the most corrupt and disgusting leadership that money and favors can buy.
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