Obama says Rezko had bigger role in fundraising


  • World
  • Saturday, 15 Mar 2008

MYT 12:31:31 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Friday an indicted Chicago businessman raised up to $250,000 for his previous political campaigns, a higher figure than he previously reported, according to two Chicago newspapers.

The Illinois Democratic senator's campaign has previously said it donated to charity more than $150,000 in contributions traced to Antoin "Tony" Rezko. The property developer and restaurant entrepreneur is on trial, accused by federal prosecutors of extorting bribes and campaign donations as well as money laundering.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama speaks in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, March 11, 2008. Obama said on Friday an indicted Chicago businessman raised up to $250,000 for his previous political campaigns, a higher figure than he previously reported, according to two Chicago newspapers. (REUTERS/Keith Bedford)

Obama has long denied there was anything in his relationship with Rezko that relates to the corruption trial and there is no evidence he did anything wrong.

Obama, a former Illinois state senator, told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview that "Rezko was not my largest fundraiser but a significant fundraiser" in his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign.

Saying the contributions could be as high as $250,000, he said, "It's hard for me to know precisely."

Besides Rezko's fundraising, a 2005 real estate deal with Obama has drawn scrutiny.

Obama told the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune it was a mistake to deal with Rezko who was under grand jury investigation at the time of their property dealings.

"He never once asked me for any favors, or ever did any favors for me," Obama told the Sun-Times. "He never gave me any gifts or gave me any indication he was setting me up to ask for any favors in the future."

On the same day in 2005 that Obama purchased a Georgian mansion for $1.65 million, $300,000 less than the original asking price, Rezko's wife, Rita, purchased the adjoining lot from the same seller at the full $625,000 asking price. The sellers have said Obama was the highest bidder.

Later, Obama expanded his side yard by purchasing a sliver of Rezko's lot for $104,000.

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