Right now, he’s the governor’s worst nightmare.
Some quick background:
“Recently, Ali Ata, the former president of the Chicago Chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and a close associate of Othman, also came under scrutiny, this time by Chicago’s other newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times,” Ray Hanania wrote in 2005.
“Ata was a major contributor to the candidacy of Blagojevich, who served as a congressman before becoming governor. Ata reportedly donated more than $60,000 to Blagojevich. Ata has been active in supporting Arab American causes and was instrumental in helping to make ADC active in Chicago.
“But Ata’s ties to the state date back to Edgar and Ryan. He and three partners received more than $3.2 million when they convinced the state to lease a building they owned at 3500 W. Grand Avenue on Chicago’s poverty-stricken West Side in the early 1990s.”
“Yet, the group, which included Faisal Mohammad, a prominent member and executive director of the the nearby al-Aqsa School which is located across from the Mosque Foundation/Bridgeview Mosque, reportedly defaulted on the property but failed to inform the state.”
As Hanania goes on to recount, Blagojevich appointed Ata to the $127,000-a-year post as executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority in January 2004 “even though he had no finance experience and held a degree in engineering.”
A review by state auditor William Holland found shoddy accounting in Ata’s first six months on the job; Ata resigned in March 2005.
“A month later, Ata was offered a three-year contract worth a total of $165,600 to be a consultant to the Illinois Finance Authority on a coal-related energy initiative downstate,” Hanania wrote. “He declined the contract, according to the Sun-Times, after the newspaper began inquiring about his employment and the building lease.”
Ata was also in investor in the now-infamous Rezko development project at Roosevelt and Clark – the same one that controversial international tycoon Nadhmi Auchi took a stake in.
“Other investors in the Roosevelt and Clark development, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, include Michael Rumman, the outgoing director of Blagojevich’s Central Management Services Department, and powerful state lobbyist William Filan, the cousin of Blagojevich’s budget chief, John Filan.”
And another Rezko connection: “Ata acknowledged that a Rezko nephew received a paid internship with the Finance Authority last summer while he was at the helm.”
Rezko placed an intern in Barack Obama’s Senate office as well.
“Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is donating to charity a $5,000 contribution to his 2004 Senate campaign from an indicted former Illinois official, a spokesman said Friday,” AP reported last June.
“Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the senator was on a flight Friday afternoon so it was unclear whether he and Ata knew each other personally besides sharing a close mutual friend in Rezko.
“Ata, a frequent political contributor, donated $5,000 to Obama’s Senate campaign on June 30, 2003. After being asked about the donation by The Associated Press, Burton said $5,000 from the Senate campaign account would be donated to an unspecified charity.”
And finally, just to note, Ata’s political contributions include George W. Bush.