SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has been questioning rival Sen. Barack Obama's
relationship to political donor Tony Rezko, now on trial for fraud. Here's a look at what's going on.
What is Rezko's relationship to Obama?
He has been friendly with Obama for years, even offering him a job after Obama finished law school. Obama turned down the offer, but a political friendship developed. Rezko and his family donated at least $21,457 to Obama — and helped raise tens of thousands more — for his campaigns in Illinois, though not for his presidential bid. He also advised Obama on the purchase of a new Chicago home.
Why is Rezko on trial?
Prosecutors allege he tried to shake down companies seeking contracts from Illinois regulatory boards for campaign contributions and payoffs. They say he used his influence with Gov. Rod Blagojevich to get people appointed to the boards and then threatened to have them block contracts unless the companies paid millions in kickbacks.
What does that have to do with Obama?
Nothing. No one has alleged that Obama has anything to do with the charges against Rezko, nor has Obama been charged with any wrongdoing. Obama has donated to charity the money that Rezko donated to his campaigns, as well as money from other Rezko friends and partners, a total of $150,000.
Did Rezko help Obama buy his home?
Yes and no. Obama says he sought Rezko's advice as a real estate developer and even toured the property with him but got no financial assistance from Rezko. Instead, Obama paid $1.65-million for the house in June 2005 by using money from a book contract and taking out a mortgage. But Rezko's wife did buy the vacant lot next door, which made it easier for Obama to buy the house. Both pieces of property were owned by the same couple and they insisted on selling them at the same time, but Obama couldn't afford both.
Did they coordinate their purchases?
Obama says they didn't. He says Rezko became interested in the lot while advising him on the house and then bought the land on his own, for $625,000.
So Rezko bought the lot next door. Was that the end of his involvement?
No. Obama later bought one-sixth of that lot so he would have a bigger side yard. Its value was appraised at $40,500, Obama says, but he paid one-sixth of what Rezko paid, or $104,500.
What does Obama say?
Obama says he went out of his way to make sure he violated no laws or ethical guidelines. But he also says he regrets the "boneheaded" move and would not do it again because of the questions it raises about ethics and insiders currying favor with him.