The basis of the rumors now electrifying the local political grapevine are recent reports that Rezko has not only been seen an awful lot around the federal courthouse these days, but that local lawyers in a position to know have the impression from the questions they are getting that Rezko has flipped.
Surely this is more perilous for Gov. Rod Blagojevich than Barack Obama – the Tribune editorial page this week went so far as to say that Blagojevich is now likely to be impeached or indicted. (Bear in mind that one news report says that “one source with knowledge of the investigation into the governor and into his wife Patti Blagojevich’s real estate dealings say the probe is going ‘at top speed’.” That would lend credence the previously hot rumor that Patti would be indicted before her husband.)
Still, any news about Rezko is likely to once again raise questions about Obama’s self-described political godfather – also known to my readers as the Keyser Soze of Illinois politics – especially given that John McCain has already used him (Rezko, not Soze) in two ads.
And substantively, Obama’s long and intimate relationship with Rezko is of far more import than the spectacle of Jeremiah Wright and the (mostly) nonsense of Bill Ayers. Let’s take a brief look at the latest Rezko developments and try to place them in context.
August 21: “A federal judge has postponed the sentencing of convicted political fund-raiser Tony Rezko by nearly two months, pushing his sentencing hearing back to Oct. 28 – one week before the presidential election,” the Sun-Times reports.
“Lawyers for Rezko – a onetime friend and campaign fund-raiser to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama – had asked for more time to prepare for the hearing, which had been set for Sept. 3.”
August 21: The governor skips Obama’s speech in Springfield announcing Joe Biden as his running mate. Michael Sneed reports (link unavailable) that she “hears Gov. Blago didn’t want to muddy the Obama waters with pesky reporters asking him questions about convicted influence-peddler Tony Rezko, who was this/close to both Blago and Obama, despite Obama’s protestations.”
August 22: “John McCain’s campaign socked Barack Obama with Tony Rezko on Thursday, convinced they can tie Obama to his former political patron, now convicted of political corruption,” Lynn Sweet reported.
“McCain played the Rezko hand in a video and on a Web site, ObamaRezkoShadyDeal,after Obama stuck it to him in a new ad and on the stump Thursday because he could not remember how many houses he and his wife owned.”
Comment: Obama’s house deal with Rezko was indeed shady, though even the most basic facts still elude the national media (a Washington Post fact-check of the ad falsely states of the Obama-Rezko house deal that “the Chicago businessman, who was convicted of corruption charges in June, was not under investigation at the time of these dealings.” Not only was he under federal investigation when the deal went down, but Obama – like the rest of us – knew it. In fact, after months of denial, Obama acknowledged last spring that he actually asked Rezko about the allegations against him at the time). But if the McCain campaign doesn’t place the house deal in the context of the larger relationship, the transgression will be easily forgiven by the public if it hasn’t already.
September 23: “Barack Obama, who portrays himself on the campaign trail as a crusading reformer – underscoring the theme in a speech Monday in Green Bay – rarely used his considerable bully pulpit to clean up Springfield, Chicago’s scandalized City Hall or inept Cook County government,” Sweet reports.
“Obama’s Chicago ties are the subject of a new John McCain spot unveiled Monday, asserting, incorrectly, that Obama was ‘born of the corrupt Chicago political machine.’”
Comment: Incorrectly because Obama was not “born” of the Chicago machine, he was merely aided by it as he abetted it. When you describe Tony Rezko as your political Godfather and Emil Jones as your political mentor, what more is there to know?
September 23: Bill Daley complains to Sneed that about McCain “cutting an ad that makes it look like I’m a thief and a gangster like Rezko.”
Comment: Daley’s characterization of Rezko is priceless – unlike the governor’s public statements about how Rezko passively crossed some blurry lines.
September 26: “Sneed hears rumbles that convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, whose dealings have been linked to Barack Obama and Gov. Blagojevich, is singing to the feds.
“To wit: ‘I’m told by a close friend of Rezko that he’s cooperating with the feds,’ said a Sneed source. ‘I don’t know whether he’s talking about Gov. Blagojevich or Barack Obama or anyone else.’”
Comment: Sneed – who is supporting McCain – is to be taken with a large grain of salt. But in this case, her reporting was borne out.
September 27: “Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko, a convicted influence peddler who was once one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s most trusted confidants, has met with federal prosecutors and is considering cooperating in the corruption probe of the governor’s administration,” the Tribune reported.
“Rezko’s possible change of heart – after years of steadfast refusal – has sent ripples through a tight circle of prominent defense attorneys who represent dozens of potential witnesses and targets in the wide-ranging probe.
“His cooperation would give prosecutors investigating the governor and his wife access to someone they have described as an ultimate political insider at the center of a pervasive pay-to-play scheme.”
Comment: This moves the story from Sneed into the realm of reality.
September 27: Rezko’s name comes up in a Saturday Night Live skit.
“In a takeoff on Friday’s presidential debate, the John McCain character criticized Obama’s support for federal earmarks, including an $8.1 million earmark called the Tony Rezko Hush Fund,” the Sun-Times explains.
“Obama’s character shot back, ‘Sen. McCain, you know I withdrew that initiative after he began cooperating with federal authorities’.”
Comment: The reference is neither funny nor particularly sensical. For viewers across America even less so.
September 28: “Just weeks before he is to be sentenced, political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is in the midst of intense discussions with federal investigators, sources close to the investigation confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times.
September 29: Jay Levine of CBS2 reports that one local attorney tells him “I’ve heard 18 different ways Rezko is talking.”
September 29: “Convicted political fixer Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko has been quietly visiting Chicago’s federal courthouse, setting off speculation that he may be spilling secrets to federal prosecutors in return for a lenient sentence,” AP reports.