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Rezko 101: Political Connections

By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 21, 2008 4:30PM

Tony Rezko's rise to power in state politics didn't happen overnight. When got started as a strong advocate of grassroots Arab-American activism in Chicago and was often the largest contributor to Arab-American campaigns. But several years ago, Rezko’s name started showing up on campaign disclosure forms for prominent politicians in Chicago, Cook County and the state.

He raised money for John Stroger, Mayor Daley, countless aldermen, and governors. In October 2000, Stroger introduced a resolution praising Rezko’s commitment to the county. And Rezko didn't just support Democrats. He became an adviser to former Gov. George Ryan, and was acquainted with Ryan’s predecessor, Jim Edgar. Rezko liked state politics so much, in fact, that when Rod Blagojevich ran for governor in 2002, Rezko raised more than $500,000 for him. It was then that Rezko’s role in state politics changed from fundraising to naming individuals to head key state offices and commissions - including Stuart Levine.

The Rezko indictment has shaken much of Illinois's political establishment, since it lists a number of individuals who are identified by letter only. The Sun-Times has identified the "Public Official A" cited in the indictment is Governor Blagojevich. Rezko's ties to the governor will figure prominently in his upcoming trial, as he was once a close friend and confidant of Blagojevich, and one of the gov's top fundraisers. That relationship could be bad news for the governor, who says Rezko betrayed him. In recently filed court documents, prosecutors say they now have evidence that shows Rezko was “one of a handful of extremely powerful political leaders” who had “significant influence” over who the governor appointed to state boards. They allege that Rezko backed four people who sat on one of the boards that controlled contracts and investments he could profit from.

Also connected to Rezko is Bill Cellini, a powerful GOP insider, and Bob Kjellander, treasurer of the Republican National Committee. None of these men have been accused of crimes.

Of all the politicians that Rezko's influence has impacted, perhaps the most visible is Barack Obama.

The Sun-Times has an excellent breakdown of who's who in the indictment.