Tuesday, January 22, 2008

As bad as Hillary is... Obama's slumlord ties

Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 07:24:52 -0500
From: "Tenant"
Subject: As bad as Hillary is... Obama's slumlord ties

NB- ...this is troubling.

Last night when Hillary and Obama were throwing
personal barbs at the CNN debate, Hillary made
reference to Obama's relationship with a "slum landlord."

Granted, no one is perfect and presidential races
require millions of dollars; candidates do not
know the names of most donors. And there are
certainly innocuous parts of any candidate's past
that can be twisted. We've seen Bill Clinton do
it, Charley Rangel did it. And Hillary has her
own ties with NYC developers and landlord...
quite a lot. Even so, she certainly is part of NY
machine politics and many of her supporters just
ooze sleaze -- Chris Quinn, Charley Rangel, Virginia Fields and on and on.

The false rumors are out by 2008 swift-boaters
claiming Obama is a Muslim (false) and other
things. As horrible a senator that Hillary has
been in New York, this report below does not
appear to be exaggerated mud-slinging and comes
from a reputable source (well as reputable as any
mainstream news paper). It appears to be based on fact. And that's troubling.

Take some of the names of local NYC poverty pimps
and substitute their names into the article
below. Not only will it them be closer to home,
but you will also understand how systemic the problem is, even for Obama.

There's a certain "Obamomania" creeping the land,
for a lot of good reasons. But before we crown
him, we should look at his own past. Perhaps,
before the Republican slime machine gets a hold
of this information (although it would take some
gall for them to attack slumlords and defend
tenant interests) Obama should come clean and offer more details.


(also see
http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/353786,CST-NWS-rezquestions23.article )

Obama and his Rezko ties
Chicago Sun-Times
April 23, 2007

BY TIM NOVAK Staff Reporter/tnovak@suntimes.com

For more than five weeks during the brutal winter
of 1997, tenants shivered without heat in a
government-subsidized apartment building on Chicago's South Side.
It was just four years after the landlords --
Antoin "Tony'' Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru
-- had rehabbed the 31-unit building in Englewood
with a loan from Chicago taxpayers.

Rezko and Mahru couldn't find money to get the heat back on.

But their company, Rezmar Corp., did come up with
$1,000 to give to the political campaign fund of
Barack Obama, the newly elected state senator
whose district included the unheated building.

Obama has been friends with Rezko for 17 years.

Rezko has been a political patron to Obama and
many others, helping to raise millions of dollars
for them through his own contributions and by
hosting fund-raisers in his home.

Obama, who has worked as a lawyer and a
legislator to improve living conditions for the
poor, took campaign donations from Rezko even as
Rezko's low-income housing empire was collapsing,
leaving many African-American families in
buildings riddled with problems -- including
squalid living conditions, vacant apartments,
lack of heat, squatters and drug dealers.

The building in Englewood was one of 30 Rezmar
rehabbed in a series of troubled deals largely
financed by taxpayers. Every project ran into
financial difficulty. More than half went into
foreclosure, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

"Their buildings were falling apart,'' said a
former city official. "They just didn't pay
attention to the condition of these buildings.''

Eleven of Rezko's buildings were in Obama's state Senate district.

Obama, now a U.S. senator running for president,
has come under fire over his friendship with
Rezko, who was charged last fall with demanding
kickbacks on state business deals under Gov. Blagojevich.

Much of the criticism has centered on two real
estate deals involving Obama's South Side
mansion. In the first, Obama paid $300,000 less
than the asking price for a doctor's home, while
Rezko's wife paid the doctor full price for the
vacant lot next door. Then -- a few months before
Rezko was indicted -- Obama bought part of that lot from Rezko's wife.

But Obama's ties with Rezko go beyond those two
real estate sales and the political support, the
Sun-Times found. Obama was an attorney with a
small Chicago law firm -- Davis Miner Barnhill &
Galland -- that helped Rezmar get more than $43
million in government funding to rehab 15 of
their 30 apartment buildings for the poor.

Obama role unclear

Just what legal work -- and how much -- Obama did
on those deals is unknown. His campaign staff
acknowledges he worked on some of them. But the
Rezmar-related work amounted to just five hours
over the six years it said Obama was affiliated
with the law firm, the staff said in an e-mail in February.

Obama, however, was associated with the firm for
more than nine years, his staff acknowledged
Sunday in an e-mail response to questions
submitted March 14 by the Sun-Times. They didn't
say what deals he worked on -- or how much work he did.

"The senator, relatively inexperienced in this
kind of work, was assigned to tasks appropriate
for a junior lawyer,'' according to an e-mail
from Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. "These tasks
would have included reviewing documents,
collecting corporate organizational documents,
and drafting corporate resolutions.''

In fact, Gibbs wrote, "Senator Obama does not
remember having conversations with Tony Rezko
about properties that he owned or any specific
issues related to those properties.''

Rezko and Mahru had no construction experience
when they created Rezmar in 1989 to rehabilitate
apartments for the poor under the Daley
administration. Between 1989 and 1998, Rezmar
made deals to rehab 30 buildings, a total of
1,025 apartments. The last 15 buildings involved
Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland during Obama's time with the firm.

Rezko and Mahru also managed the buildings, which
were supposed to provide homes for poor people
for 30 years. Every one of the projects ran into trouble:

• Seventeen buildings -- many beset with code
violations, including a lack of heat -- ended up in foreclosure.
• Six buildings are currently boarded up.
• Hundreds of the apartments are vacant, in need of major repairs.
• Taxpayers have been stuck with millions in unpaid loans.
• At least a dozen times, the city of Chicago
sued Rezmar for failure to heat buildings.

For five weeks, the Sun-Times sought to interview
Obama about Rezko and the housing deals. His
staff wanted written questions. It responded
Sunday but left many questions unanswered. Other
answers didn't directly address the question.

Among these: When did Obama learn of Rezmar's
financial problems? "The senator had no special
knowledge of any financial problems,'' Gibbs wrote.

Did the senator ever complain to anyone --
government officials, Rezmar or Rezko -- about
the conditions of Rezmar's buildings? "Senator
Obama did follow up on constituency complaints
about housing as [a] matter of routine,'' Gibbs wrote.

Did the senator ever discuss Rezmar's financial
problems with anyone at his law firm? "The firm
advises us that it [is] unaware of any such conversations,'' Gibbs wrote.

Turns down Rezmar job
Obama's friendship with Rezko began with a telephone call.

It was 17 years ago. Obama had just become the
first black president of the Harvard Law Review.

Newspapers wrote about him. One story caught the
eye of David Brint, a vice president of Rezmar, a
new company that had become the Daley
administration's favored developer of low-income housing.

"I just cold-called him," Brint said in an interview.

Brint said he wanted to know if Obama would come
work for Rezmar, developing housing for the poor
-- something Obama had expressed interest in,
according to the story Brint had read. Brint

arranged for Obama to meet Rezko, but Obama didn't take the job.
Obama, who has a law degree from Harvard,
subsequently returned to Chicago to lead a voter-registration drive in 1992.

The next year, Obama joined Davis Miner Barnhill
& Galland, a 12-lawyer firm that specialized in
helping develop low-income housing. The firm's
top partner, Allison S. Davis, was, and is, a
member of the Chicago Plan Commission, appointed
by Mayor Daley. Davis was also a friend of Rezko.

Davis and Rezko would eventually go into business together, developing homes.
Another firm partner, Judson Miner, ran the city
Law Department under Mayor Harold Washington, one of Obama's political idols.

Asked what Rezko cases Obama worked on, Miner
told the Sun-Times, "We'll put together a list of
the cases he worked on involving Rezko/Rezmar in the next day or two.''

That was March 13. He never provided the information.

While at the law firm, Obama spent much of his
time working on issues that would help improve
conditions in poor neighborhoods, according to
his first book, Dreams from My Father, published in 1996.

"In my legal practice, I work mostly with
churches and community groups, men and women who
quietly build grocery stores and health clinics
in the inner city, and housing for the poor,'' Obama wrote in the book.

Three community groups represented by Davis Miner
Barnhill & Galland were partners with Rezmar in the troubled housing deals.

Rezko offers Obama support

Obama had been at the firm for two years when he
began his political career, running to replace state Sen. Alice Palmer.

Rezko became Obama's political patron. Obama got
his first campaign contributions on July 31,
1995: $300 from a Loop lawyer, a $5,000 loan from
a car dealer, and $2,000 from two food companies owned by Rezko.

Around that time, Rezmar began developing
low-income apartments in partnerships with the
Chicago Urban League and two other not-for-profit
community groups, both founded and run by Bishop
Arthur Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of
God and a powerful ally of the mayor -- the
Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., known
as WPIC, and the Fund for Community Redevelopment and Revitalization.

All three community groups were clients of the
Davis law firm. Davis himself was treasurer of
WPIC when it went into business with Rezmar.

Why go into business with Rezmar? "We thought
they were successful,'' Davis said, noting that
little development was taking place in Woodlawn.

At the time, Rezmar had been in business for six
years and had become one of City Hall's favored
developers of low-income housing, managing 600
apartments in 15 buildings it rehabbed with
government funding. Teaming now with community
development groups, Rezmar rehabbed another 15
buildings, with 400 apartments, between 1995 and
1998. Each deal involved a mix of public and
private financing -- loans from the city or
state, federal low-income-housing tax credits and bank loans.

By the time Rezmar started working with those
community groups, at least two of its earlier
buildings were falling into disrepair --
including the Englewood apartment building at
7000 S. Sangamon where the tenants were without heat for five weeks.

The tenants there had no heat from Dec. 27, 1996,
until at least Feb. 3, 1997, when the city of
Chicago sued to turn the heat on. The case was
settled later that month with a $100 fine.
It was during that time that the area's new state
senator, Barack Obama, got a $1,000 campaign
donation from Rezmar. The date: Jan. 14, 1997.

Obama works on Rezmar deals
Obama spent the next eight years serving in the
Illinois Senate and continued to work for the Davis law firm.
Through its partnerships, Rezmar remained a
client of the firm, according to ethics
statements Obama filed while a state senator.

Davis said he didn't remember Obama working on the Rezmar projects.

"I don't recall Barack having any involvement in
real estate transactions,'' Davis said. "Barack
was a litigator. His area of focus was litigation, class-action suits.''

But Obama did legal work on real estate deals
while at Davis' firm, according to biographical
information he submitted to the Sun-Times in
1998. Obama specialized "in civil rights
litigation, real estate financing, acquisition,
construction and/or redevelopment of low-and
moderate income housing,'' according to his "biographical sketch."

And he did legal work on Rezko's deals, according
to an e-mail his presidential campaign staff sent
the Sun-Times on Feb. 16, in response to earlier
inquiries. The staff didn't specify which Rezmar
projects Obama worked on, or his role. But it
drew a distinction between working for Rezko and
working on projects involving his company.

"Senator Obama did not directly represent Mr.
Rezko or his firms. He did represent on a very
limited basis ventures in which Mr. Rezko's
entities participated along with others,''
according to the e-mail from Obama's staff.

Obama buys Rezko land

Over the years, Rezko, Mahru, their wives and
businesses have given more than $50,000 to
Obama's campaign funds, records show. And Rezko
has helped raise millions more.

Rezko was among the people Obama appointed to
serve on his U.S. Senate campaign finance
committee, the Sun-Times reported in 2003. The
committee raised more than $14 million, according
to Federal Election Commission records, helping
send Obama to Washington in 2004.

As a U.S. senator, Obama grew closer to Rezko.

Two years ago, Obama bought a mansion on the
South Side, in the Kenwood neighborhood, from a
doctor. On the same day, Rezko's wife, Rita
Rezko, bought the vacant lot next door from the
same seller. The doctor had listed the properties
for sale together. He sold the house to Obama for
$300,000 below the asking price. The doctor got
his asking price on the lot from Rezko's wife.

Last year, Rita Rezko sold a strip of that vacant
lot to Obama for $104,500 -- a deal Obama later
apologized for, acknowledging that people might
think he got a favor from Rezko. Obama called the
episode "boneheaded'' and a "mistake.''

At the time Obama bought that strip of land, it
had been reported that Rezko was under federal
investigation for influence-peddling involving
the administration of Blagojevich, whose campaign
also received Rezko's financial support.

Rezko has since been indicted for allegedly
demanding kickbacks from companies seeking state
business under Blagojevich. Rezko's trial has
been postponed while investigators sort through his finances.

'Disenchanted with Rezmar'

Rezmar's final low-income housing deals involving
the Davis law firm went bad quickly.

Those deals were supposed to provide affordable
housing for at least 25 years. But the first deal
Rezmar struck with the Woodlawn Preservation and
Investment Corp. collapsed in just six and a half
years, when the state sued for foreclosure. WPIC
and its sister agency, the Fund for Community
Redevelopment and Revitalization, ultimately
forced Rezmar to give up control of all 12
buildings they rehabbed together, citing
financial troubles and deteriorating conditions of the buildings.

The state foreclosure suit came because Rezmar
had stopped making monthly mortgage payments in
March 2001 on a state loan to help turn an old
nursing home into low-income apartments at 6140
S. Drexel, in Obama's state Senate district.

"WPIC became disenchanted with Rezmar and wanted
to get rid of them,'' Brazier said. "They thought
the buildings weren't being kept up properly.

There were some financial problems.''

Rezmar and WPIC cut all ties last October, when
the Chicago City Council agreed to let Rezmar out
of a city loan. Rezmar transferred its interest
to The Wolcott Group, a management company run by
business partners of David Brint -- the man who had introduced Rezko to Obama.

Contributing: Chris Fusco and Art Golab

The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
TenantNet(tm): http://tenant.net/
email: tenant@tenant.net
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
activists and is not considered legal advice.

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