Especially in the wake of recent scandals emerging from Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, and William Jefferson, to name just a few, Americans have become tragically accustomed to a certain background level of sleaze from the average politician.
But Barack Obama is hardly an average politician; his youth, Washington outsider status, and stirring rhetoric have defined his candidacy as being dedicated to hope, moral consciousness, and a shift away from beltway politics as usual. There are certainly many upsides to these associations, but a notable downside is that some commentators are surprised and disappointed when he stoops to politics as usual. Thus he attracts coverage and criticism for actions that likely wouldn’t raise eyebrows coming from one of the other candidates.
That being said, Obama cannot expect to benefit from his unique reputation without attracting unique scrutiny. Several weeks ago, Reality Check covered Obama’s controversial ties to alleged slumlord Tony Rezko. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune further questions Obama’s celebrated commitment to ending corruption and ensuring open government:
‘Obama’s record of local endorsements — one measure of how he has used his nascent political clout — has drawn criticism from those who say it reflects his deference to Chicago’s established political order and runs counter to his public calls for clean government.
In the 2006 Democratic primary, for example, Obama endorsed first-time candidate Alexi Giannoulias for state treasurer despite reports about loans Giannoulias’ family-owned Broadway Bank made to crime figures. Records show Giannoulias and his family had given more than $10,000 to Obama’s campaign, which banked at Broadway.
Obama endorsed former Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd), calling her “a very early supporter of my campaign.” Tillman was then under fire for her stewardship of the scandal-plagued Harold Washington Cultural Center, where contracts benefited members of her family.