At a recent Chicago Democratic fundraiser, it was President Barack Obama, Alex Giannoulias — who is seeking the Illinois Senate seat formerly held by the chief executive — and piles of campaign cash.
It was just like the good old days, except for one thing: If only Tony Rezko could have been there. When Obama showed up to raise money for Giannoulias’ Senate campaign, the two probably didn’t discuss the imprisoned Rezko, the subsidized-housing developer and felon who was a business associate of both. Both men were responsible for providing millions in cash to Rezko’s disgraced enterprises, too.
As a state senator, Obama thrived on Rezko’s campaign cash while promoting housing programs that made him and other government-subsidized developers wealthy at the taxpayers’ expense: State tax credits, rent and development subsidies, grants, state loans, exemptions from local ordinances, and mandates that Illinois municipalities build more subsidized housing. At one point, Obama even wrote a letter to Chicago and Illinois officials on Rezko’s behalf, urging them to give Rezko and a business partner (another Obama friend) a $14 million construction loan that came with $855,000 in cash for the two developers. The project in question wasn’t even in Obama’s state Senate district. For his part, Rezko took the money and let his subsidized slums go to seed. He later made Obama’s purchase of a gorgeous Chicago mansion possible when he agreed to buy an adjacent lot that the seller insisted on unloading along with the house.
Giannoulias, meanwhile, once served as vice president of his family’s bank, Broadway, which recently collapsed because of its shaky business practices. Some of Broadway’s loans to Rezko were already known, but we learned Monday from the Chicago newspapers that the bank had made an additional $22.75 million loan to one of Rezko’s companies in February 2006. This was well after Rezko had become radioactive, and despite the fact that another Rezko company had declared bankruptcy and defaulted on an earlier $10.9 million property loan from Broadway. Giannoulias left Broadway five months before this new loan was issued.
But along with the bank’s earlier loans to Rezko and other felons and mobsters, about which Giannoulias once lied to the Chicago press, we get a pretty good idea of how his bank worked — a lot like state and local government in Illinois. You just need to know a guy. So if you like the way Illinois is governed, and if you want to elect more federal officials who can funnel money to future Tony Rezkos, you know where to put your money and your vote.