Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tony Rezko's investor and Barack Obama

Steve Rhodes of the Beachwood Reporter provides an excellent overview of "Barack Obama's Auchi Problem."

Who is Nadhmi Auchi? He's a controversial Iraqi-born billionaire who reportedly dealt with Saddam Hussein's regime prior to the Gulf War and whose bank trafficked most of the funds involved in the massive UN Oil-for-food scandal. Convicted of fraud in France in 2003, his request to enter the U.S. in 2005 was denied.

But someone with pull at the State Department was able to secure a visa for him in 2006. The executive summary:

Tony Rezko pimped out Barack Obama to impress Nadhmi Auchi, a bad operator who found the political culture in Chicago and Illinois amenable to his kind of investment acumen. The only problem was that Rezko's deal was in trouble, and Rezko himself was caught up in, among other scandals, a minority-contracting scam with the Dalely administration. At the same time, Rezko was wheeling and dealing with the Blagojevich administration and everyone in the political universe knew he was under federal investigation for it but Obama asked for his help buying a $1.6 million mansion and appeared at a couple of events to help Rezko impress Auchi and others.

Now Obama's memory is faulty because there's that pesky question of judgement, as well as the stain on his meticulously burnished image as a beacon of hope and reform because his relationship with both Rezko and the Machine and politics-as-usual is deeper than he's ever cared to admit. Have I missed anything? Does that make sense now? Do you get the feeling there's still more to the story that we don't know about?

Via RezkoWatch, Rick Moran notes that during a March 14, 2008 with the Chicago Sun-Times, Barack Obama denied helping Auchi enter the country but doesn't know whether his staff assisted the controversial billionaire.

Q: Did you ever help Auchi enter the country?
A: No.
Q: Or your office?
A: Not that I know of.

Moran goes on to explain the shady ties.

Obama himself has been extraordinarily vague about any possible meetings, saying that while he very well may have met Auchi, he doesn’t recall it... [There are serious questions about] the source of money that Rezko used to buy a side lot to Obama’s mansion at a time when he told a court he was flat broke and heavily in debt.

[A] holding company belonging to Auchi... loaned Mr. Rezko $3.5 million dollars just three weeks before Obama and Rezko closed the sale on the property simultaneously –a stipulation by the previous owners that both the lot and house be sold at the same time– thus allowing Obama to purchase his dream house.

...Auchi has a reputation in Great Britain of collecting politicians “the way that other people collect stamps.”

Let's recap.

So Auchi – friend of Saddam, international fraudster, and business partner to one of Chicago’s premiere fixers– gave Rezko the money that allowed Obama to purchase his house. Without the loan, Rezko would not have been able to afford the $125,000 downpayment on the lot and Obama would not have been able to meet the terms set by the sellers.

Did Auchi know that part of that money would be used to help Obama purchase his house? Did Obama know where Rezko’s money came from?

Good questions all. And, thus far, conclusive answers have not been forthcoming.

But if Obama's campaign is truly about "judgment", his associations with extremely shady characters like Rezko and Auchi -- involving possible quid pro quo dealings -- do not speak well for him.

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