The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Rezko 101: The Obama Factor

By Kevin Robinson on Feb 22, 2008 3:37PM

While the talk around town has focused on the implications of Tony Rezko's indictment for Blagojevich, the national story has been how close he was to Obama.

2008_2_obama_rezko.jpgAlthough they first met in 1990, when Rezko offered Obama a job, it wasn't until 1995 that Obama worked with the developer. Obama was working for Davis Miner Barnhill, a Chicago law firm that represents developers who build low-income housing with government funds. In 1995, Obama worked on a project at the law firm to help Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Co, an affordable housing community group, strike the deal with Rezko. Later that year, Rezmar gave Obama's state senate campaign $2,000. In 2003, when Obama ran for US Senate, Rezko held a fundraiser at his Wilmette home. And Rezko has even helped raise money for Obama's presidential run. There is no firm dollar amount of how much Rezko and his circle have given the Illinois senator over the years, but Obama has already given almost $160,000 to charity from his campaign. That number includes "contributions made by Mr. Rezko's family members, employees of his companies and those whose contributions may be connected to" a 2003, fund-raiser at Rezko's Wilmette mansion, according to the Sun-Times.

Giving away campaign funds won't mitigate what is probably the most famous connection Obama has to Tony Rezko: the real estate deal involving Obama's South Side home. In June 2005, Obama bought a $1.65 million home, paying $300,000 less than the asking price, while Rezko's wife paid the full price of $625,000 for the adjacent vacant lot. Both closed on the same day. In January of that year, Obama bought part of that lot from Rezko's wife for $104,500. The purchases came at a time when Rezko's legal problems were becoming public.

How much any of this will matter on the national stage remains to be seen. Rezko is so deeply connected to so many people in Illinois politics that whatever the outcome of his up coming trial, the fallout from the revelations will be felt in political circles in the state for years to come.

For an obsessive look at Tony Rezko and his relationship with Barack Obama, check out Rezko Watch.