Can Blago Hurt Obama?

Dems share a history of deep-dish Chicago politics

With the accusation that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama's old Senate seat, many are left wondering just how close the two men were. If the FBI's wiretap is to be believed the answer is "not very."
"F--- him," growled Blagojevich in reference to Obama at one point, whom he also dismissed as a "motherf-----."
That said, both men have been tainted by the stench of notorious real estate mogul Antonin Rezko.
Rezko got together oodles of cash for Blagojevich's campaign. Rezko later reaped millions in kickbacks from companies seeking state contracts, according to a 2006 indictment.
A year earlier, Obama bought his Chicago home for $300,000 less the listed asking price. That same day, Rezko's wife bought the adjoining plot of land from the same seller for full price.
It's been suggested that the timing of the sales was more than coincidence, that Rezko had orchestrated a sweetheart deal for the Illinois senator, a claim he has denied.
Yet a year later, Obama purchased a 10-foot wide strip of Rezko's land for nearly twice market value.
"I consider this a mistake on my part and I regret it," Obama told the Chicago Sun-Time in November 2006, while maintaining there was no impropriety.
As Blagojevich was beginning to feel serious heat earlier this year from the Rezko trial, Blagojevich tried to throw Obama under the bus they had both ridden in the past.
“And then you deal with all the incoming that comes along with it, whether you’re a governor of a state like Illinois, or a presidential candidate, or an attorney general, or a lieutenant governor, or a speaker of the House or even Republicans who’ve also been the beneficiaries of some of Mr. Rezko’s help,” said Blagojevich during a January press conference.
More direct, but less titillating was Obama's service – along with his White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel  -- as adviser to Blagojevich's successful gubernatorial bid in 2002.
In July, Emanuel told New Yorker magazine that he and Obama were top advisers to the 2002 Blagojevich campaign, something confirmed by a spokesman for the governor.
But David Wilhelm, who worked for Obama at the time, tired to put a little more daylight between the two men.
“There was an advisory council that was inclusive of Rahm and Barack but not limited to them,” said Wilhelm.
David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, once worked for Blagojevich, but chose not to help his run for governor.
"I was concerned about whether he was ready for … governing. I was concerned about some of the folks—I was concerned about how the race was being approached," said Axelrod.
From a distance, it appears that once Obama began in earnest to pursue his national political ambitions, he began to distance himself from the likes of Rezko and Blagojevich.
Up close it probably looks worse than that. But like a seasoned pro, Obama has been able to maintain plausible deniability of any malfeasance.
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