We all knew it was coming — it was just a matter of when. In response to an ad released by the Obama campaign feeding off the so-called "Housegate" controversy and portraying Sen. John McCain as out of touch with ordinary Americans on the housing crisis, the McCain campaign yesterday "went nuclear" and released its own spot blasting Sen. Barack Obama for his ties to his long-time friend and fund-raiser, Tony Rezko. Rezko, a Chicago real estate developer, was convicted in June on fraud and bribery charges. Here’s the McCain ad:
PRODUCTION NOTES: The McCain ad, titled "Housing Problem," focuses on two aspects of Obama’s relationship with Rezko that drew attention in the course of Rezko’s trial. First, it says Rezko helped Obama "buy his million dollar mansion, purchasing part of the property he couldn’t afford." In fact, it was Rezko’s wife who purchased the parcel adjacent to the Chicago home Obama bought in 2005. The seller owned both parcels and wanted to sell them both at the same time. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Obama’s relationship with Rezko grew closer in June 2005, when Obama and Rezko’s wife bought adjoining real estate parcels from a doctor in the South Side Kenwood neighborhood. Obama paid $1.65 million for the doctor’s mansion, while Rezko’s wife paid $625,000 for the vacant lot next door. Obama’s purchase price was $300,000 below the asking price; Rezko’s wife paid full price.
Six months later, Obama paid Rita Rezko $104,500 for one-sixth of the vacant lot, which he bought to expand his yard. In November 2006, he expressed regret about the transaction.
“It was a mistake to have been engaged with him at all in this or any other personal business dealing that would allow him, or anyone else,” Obama said, “to believe that he had done me a favor.”
According to the Sun-Times, it was "widely reported" that Rezko was under investigation at the time of Obama’s land purchase from Rezko’s wife. I’m not going to defend Obama here. Without a doubt, this does not look good.
The ad then suggests Obama did political favors for Rezko, "including $14 million from taxpayers." This is a reference to letters Obama wrote in 1997, as an Illinois state senator, in support of a deal that benefited Rezko. From the Sun-Times:
As a state senator, Barack Obama wrote letters to city and state officials supporting his political patron Tony Rezko’s successful bid to get more than $14 million from taxpayers to build apartments for senior citizens.
The deal included $855,000 in development fees for Rezko and his partner, Allison S. Davis, Obama’s former boss, according to records from the project, which was four blocks outside Obama’s state Senate district.
It is important to note that Obama has never been accused of wrong-doing. However, the sequence of the two charges in the ad seems to imply that Obama did a $14 million favor for Rezko *quid pro quo *for the land purchase. Because the letters preceded the house/land purchase by about eight years, this is extremely unlikely — unless Obama and Rezko conspired with remarkable forethought and patience — and therefore the ad is misleading.
In this ad, the McCain campaign brought out the big guns. I’ll go out on a limb and predict this is not the last we’ll hear about Mr. Rezko.
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