Obama has run on a platform touting clean and, above all, open government. Has he been an exemplar of open government and a leader of transparent legislating? Is he practicing the “new politics” that he preaches?
According to Barack Obama’s website:
“Barack Obama has been a leader in the fight for open and honest government. As a U.S. Senator, he spearheaded the effort to clean up Washington in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. In a politically charged election year, Obama acknowledged that corruption was a problem that plagued both political parties.”
Well, in the past week information has been coming out that suggests Obama may not be so squeaky clean after all. His current words and past actions don’t seem wholly aligned.
The crux of the case placed against Obama is in his relationship with Tony Rezko during his time as an Illinois State Senator. Tony Rezko was one of the first contributers to Obama’s state senate campaign, and he was a major fundraiser for Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign, appointed to Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign finance committee.
Tony Rezko ran hot dog stands before deciding to go into the business of renovating run-down buildings to house poor black families. Without having any construction experience at all, his newly formed company, Rezmar, secured over $100 million dollars in government loans for their operations between 1989 and 1998. Out of 30 buildings taken on by Rezmar, 6 are boarded up and 18 have been foreclosed. Hundreds of apartments lie empty. Taxpayers, not Rezmar, are now bridled with the weight of millions of dollars in unpaid loans.
While Rezko was under federal investigation for influence-peddling by none other than famed CIA leak investigator U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Obama and Rezko purchased nextdoor residential lots on the same day. Interestingly, Obama paid over $300,000 less than the asking price. Later, Obama paid Rezko $104,500 for a portion of his lot.
When originally asked about his connection with Rezko in November of last year, Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times,
“Throughout my life, I have put faith in confronting experiences honestly and learning from them. And that is what I will do with this experience as well.”
In stark contrast, this past week the Obama campaign avoided questions from the Chicago Sun-Times, refusing an interview on the grounds that the campaign simply didn’t have time. Unbeknownst to the campaign, however, the Sun-Times decided to stake out Obama’s campaign van. Shady journalistic practices? Maybe. But they did discover that while Obama was too busy to give an interview to clear up his involvement with Rezko, he did have enough time to sit down to do a private interview with the Tribune about how the Sun-Times was misguided.
Is Obama serious about bringing transparency to government? And is he serious about infusing “new politics” into government? If he is, he’ll need to confront issues like this head on, as he previously promised. Backtracking and flip-flopping aren’t very new or transparent.