Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Answering More Questions About Rezko"

The Trail (WaPo's political blog):
CHICAGO -- Sen. Barack Obama, seeking to put to rest lingering questions about his relationship with indicted fundraiser and developer Antoin Rezko, met for roughly three hours Friday with investigative reporters and editorial board members of Chicago's two biggest newspapers.
Few details appeared new. Obama revised upward his estimate of the money that Rezko raised for his early campaigns, and he reiterated his mea culpa about coordinating the purchase of his Chicago home with Rezko and buying a piece of an adjoining property from Rezko and his wife.

Obama, who has made ethics a centerpiece of his career, told the Chicago Tribune that he made a mistake "in not seeing the potential conflicts of interest." He said Rezko asked for no favors. He also said that, when Rezko was asked about news reports of his questionable dealings, he told Obama that they had no merit.

"My instinct was to believe him," Obama said, according to a report on the Tribune's web site.

Rezko is on trial in Chicago federal court, accused of using political influence to extort money from firms hoping to business with the Illinois government. Obama has no connection to the case.

Obama told the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times that Rezko, a significant contributor and fundraiser since early in his political career, may have gathered as much as $260,000 $250,000 for his six races before he launched his presidential bid.

In the past, the Obama campaign had cited roughly $160,000 in contributions linked to Rezko during Obama's winning 2004 Senate campaign. Those funds, later donated to charity, came from Rezko, his relatives and employees, and guests at a fundraiser at his home.

Reporters on both papers had been complaining that Obama was unwilling to address their questions about his relationship with Rezko and the real estate deal. The Obama campaign said Friday's twin sessions were an attempt to do so.

Late Friday night, the Obama campaign published records about the real estate deal on its Web site.

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