Not-Minority O'Hare Contracts And The Political Ties That Bind Them
For about a week now news stories have been swirling around about some of Gov. Rob Blagojevich's top fundraisers and various state and city contracts. Yesterday, stories erupted about fundraiser and Blagojevich advisor Tony Rezko and former Rezko employee and Blagojevich administration member Jack Lavin with setting up a fake minority front for two O'Hare Panda Express restaurants. The restaurants, supposedly operated by black concessionaire, Jabir Herbert Muhammad, received their contracts as part of a minority contract set-aside program.
Like any political doings, a certain amount of "connect-the-dots" is necessary to really have fun.
Rezko owns or has interest in lots of restaurants in the Chicago area, including Subways, Papa John's (now Papa Tony's), and Panda Express. Muhammad operates Crucial, Inc., which according to the Tribune's research, has contracted Rezko to operate their O'Hare Panda Express restaurants. Muhammad also owns Crucial Communications with Orlando Jones, former chief of staff to County Board President John Stroger. Muhammad is the son of Nation of Islam founder, Elijah Muhammad. Jones is also a business partner of Rezko. Lavin was Deputy State Treasurer under then-Treasurer Pat Quinn (now Lt. Gov. Quinn) and Rezko has made significant contributions to Quinn.
None of these relationships prove anything. In fact, if anything, they prove that Rezko, Lavin and Muhammad are really good at networking - especially with government employees. Impartial or not, the fact is that state and local contracts - in any American city or state - are hard to get unless you can get the attention of government agencies and the people that run them. Being connected helps you do business in a big way.
Rezko, Lavin and Muhammad are accused of a different kind of wrong-doing, however. Like with the Hired Truck Scandal, the three are accused of obtaining minority contracts by setting up a business fronted by minorities, but largely owned and operated by non-minorities.