Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another Daley guy who knows nothing

Little rich's only way to get out of being indicted is having troubles of his own.

Sun-Times Exclusive: Obama surfaces in Rekzo's federal corruption case

Source confirmed Obama is the unnamed "political candidate" referred to in document which outlines case against Rezko

January 19, 2008

For the first time, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama has surfaced in the federal corrupton case against his longtime campaign fund-raiser, Tony Rezko, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The Illinois senator isn’t accused of any wrongdoing. And there’s no evidence Obama knew contributions to his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign came from schemes Rezko is accused of orchestrating.

The allegations against Rezko that involve Obama are contained in one paragraph of a 78-page document filed last month in which prosecutors outline their corruption and fraud case against Rezko, who was also a key money man for Gov. Blagojevich and other politicians.

Rezko is set to go to trial Feb. 25. The revelation that Obama’s name could come up in court is a political headache he doesn’t need as he heads into a round of primaries that are likely to determine his party’s nomination for president.

Obama is not named in the Dec. 21 court document. But a source familiar with the case confirmed that Obama is the unnamed “political candidate” referred to in a section of the document that accuses Rezko of orchestrating a scheme in which a firm hired to handle state teacher pension investments first had to pay $250,000 in “sham” finder’s fees. From that money, $10,000 was donated to Obama’s successful run for the Senate in the name of a Rezko business associate, according to the court filing and the source.

Rezko, who was part of Obama’s senatorial finance committee, also is accused of directing “at least one other individual” to donate money to Obama and then reimbursing that individual — in possible violation of federal election law.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declined to comment.

Obama — a state senator when he got the contributions in 2004 — has moved to distance himself from Rezko since his longtime friend and supporter was indicted in October 2006. After news reports that Obama had engaged in a real estate transaction with Rezko’s wife at a time Tony Rezko was known to be under investigation, the senator called the episode “boneheaded” and “a mistake.”

‘No way of knowing’

Obama campaign aides said Friday he was unaware Rezko was behind the contributions cited in last month’s court filing or that the document referred to the senator.

“We have no way of knowing he is the politician named here,” spokesman Bill Burton said, “but we returned this money months ago for other reasons.”

Obama donated more than $44,000 in Rezko-linked contributions to charity last year, including the $10,000 donation mentioned in the court filing.

That money was donated to Obama by Joseph Aramanda, a Glenview businessman and Rezko associate who, sources have said, is the “Individual D” prosecutors say received the $250,000 in finder’s fees demanded by Rezko. Individual D did nothing to earn those fees, according to prosecutors.

The $10,000 contribution to Obama was given in Aramanda’s name on March 5, 2004, records show. While Obama’s camp has said the senator did not know Aramanda, Obama’s office hired Aramanda’s son as an intern in 2005, at Rezko’s urging.

Repeated attempts to reach Aramanda, who was involved in pizza franchises Rezko owned, were unsuccessful. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

A longstanding relationship

Rezko is one of Obama’s earliest political patrons. Long known as a prolific fund-raiser, the Syrian-born businessman helped raise money for Obama’s political campaigns beginning in 1995, when Obama was running for the Illinois Senate.

In 13 years in politics, Obama has gotten at least $168,000 in campaign donations from Rezko, his family and business associates. The Sun-Times reported that figure last June. Obama’s “best estimate” seven months earlier had been that Rezko had raised no more than $60,000 for him.

When Obama ran for the U.S. Senate, Rezko held a June 27, 2003, cocktail party in Rezko’s Wilmette mansion, picking up the tab for the lavish event. Obama’s campaign staff has said it has no records to show who attended that party, or how much it cost.

Obama’s relationship with Rezko dates to 1990, when Obama, then a Harvard law student, interviewed for a job with Rezko’s development company, Rezmar Corp. Obama turned down the job, instead going to work for a small Chicago law firm — Davis Miner Barnhill. That firm did work on more than a dozen low-income housing projects Rezmar rehabbed with government funds.

Eleven Rezmar buildings were in the state Senate district Obama represented between 1996 and 2004. Many of the buildings ended up in foreclosure, with tenants living in squalid conditions, the Sun-Times reported last year. In one instance, Rezko’s company left tenants without heat for five weeks. Obama said he was unaware of problems with the buildings and minimized the legal work he’d done.

Obama’s relationship with Rezko grew closer in June 2005, when Obama and Rezko’s wife bought adjoining real estate parcels from a doctor in the South Side Kenwood neighborhood. Obama paid $1.65 million for the doctor’s mansion, while Rezko’s wife paid $625,000 for the vacant lot next door. Obama’s purchase price was $300,000 below the asking price; Rezko’s wife paid full price.

Six months later, Obama paid Rita Rezko $104,500 for one-sixth of the vacant lot, which he bought to expand his yard. In November 2006, he expressed regret about the transaction.

“It was a mistake to have been engaged with him at all in this or any other personal business dealing that would allow him, or anyone else,” Obama said, “to believe that he had done me a favor.”

Sen. Obama Presidential Campaign Q&A
A Chicago Sun-Times Exclusive: Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign gave the following written responses to these questions about the Rezko court filing.

Q. What is Sen. Obama’s reaction to being referred to in the Rezko evidentiary proffer?

A. We have no way of knowing he is the politician named here but we returned this money months ago for other reasons.

Q. Was Sen. Obama aware that Rezko allegedly had directed at least one person to donate to the senator’s campaign and later reimbursed that person, possibly violating federal election law?

A. No.

Q. Has the Federal Election Commission or the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago contacted the senator or any of his representatives about these matters?

A. No.

Q. Why has the senator donated to charity campaign contributions from Rezko and Rezko-linked people?

A. In keeping with our practice of donating to charity donations from people who have been called into question through the legal process, when he was named in documents as potentially engaging in wrongdoing we thought it was appropriate to return his donation to charity.

Q. Does the senator think this development will have any impact on the presidential campaign or undercut the senator’s message that he is an agent of change?

A. No. In fact, Sen. Obama has been a champion of reforms that have made campaign finance laws more transparent so that the public can more closely follow the source of contributions to campaigns. As with any campaign, occasionally individual contributions are called into question. Sen. Obama’s policy in such instances is to donate that money to charity which is what he did in this case seven months ago when questions first surfaced.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Back to business as usual

Judge allows City Hall official to oversee hiring system

In a victory for Mayor Richard Daley's administration, a federal judge Friday approved a plan to allow a City Hall official—instead of the independent inspector general—to oversee the city's scandal-plagued hiring system.

U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen acknowledged that critics have questioned whether the Daley administration ever will keep politics free from hiring after years of abuses. But he said the city's plan contains "important safeguards" to make sure jobs aren't awarded based on political considerations.

"The city will be given an opportunity to show that the skepticism is ill-founded," Andersen wrote.

The plan he approved puts oversight of hiring in the city's newly created Office of Compliance. The judge modified the city's plan slightly to require that the official who supervises compliance with hiring policies not be a current or former city employee and not have any connections to Chicago politics.

Critics, including court-appointed hiring monitor Noelle Brennan, had pushed for Inspector General David Hoffman to handle the job. Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor, is widely considered to be immune to political pressures at City Hall.

Hiring abuses under the Daley administration have led to the convictions of the mayor's former patronage chief and four others. The city has created a $12 million fund to compensate employees and job seekers who were discriminated against for political reasons.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

There goes our pension .....

Daley creates commission to confront choked pensions

BILLIONS UNDERFUNDED | Benefit cuts, 401(k) plans may be options

January 13, 2008

Mayor Daley on Friday created a commission drawn from labor, business and banking to confront a problem that threatens to choke future generations of Chicago taxpayers: underfunded city pension funds.

The comprehensive solution Daley is seeking within 18 months could include everything from benefit reductions and increased employee contributions to a shift away from "defined benefit" pension plans and toward the "defined contributions" or 401-K plans favored by private industry.

The city could raise the age for new employees to become eligible for full pension, as the CTA has done. If union leaders agree to make sacrifices, half the net proceeds from the proposed privatizing of Midway Airport could be pumped into the pension funds, under legislation approved by the Illinois General Assembly.

The only thing certain is that something's got to give. The city's four pension funds alone have $10 billion in unfunded liabilities to employees and retirees. If they run out of money, Chicago taxpayers get stuck with the tab.

"They need to reduce the benefits. They need increased contributions by employees and... benefits more in line with what's offered in the private sector," said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall.

The 32-member commission that will confront the pension fund crisis at the city, Park District, CTA, CHA, City Colleges and Chicago Public Schools will be co-chaired by Daley's Chief Financial Officer Paul Volpe and by Volpe's predecessor, Dana Levenson, who now serves as head of North American Infrastructure for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

"There are no easy answers," Levenson said.

Volpe stressed that the pension crisis is "not an immediate problem," nor does he view the commission as "a forum by which we reduce employee benefits."

But, he said, "The longer we wait, the harder this problem will be to solve."

At the end of 2006, the firefighters pension fund had assets on hand to meet just 40 percent of its liabilities. The ratio was 49 percent for police, 67 percent for municipal employees and 92 percent for laborers.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue questioned why the city's two largest unions -- police and fire -- were not represented on the 32-member commission.

Donahue said his members are "realistic" and willing to consider increased contributions. But the FOP president said he would insist on maintaining defined benefits. And he rejected the widely held belief that pensions for city employees who get sharply reduced Social Security benefits are overly generous.

"Public service employees deserve better because of the sacrifice and commitment they make to the communities they serve. That's the trade-off. There are more opportunities in the private industry for advancement and greater wage earning," he said.

Last year, pension obligations cost the city $475 million -- more than 15 percent of Chicago's corporate budget.

The Chicago crisis mirrors the pension dilemma facing government agencies and private companies across the nation.

Levenson sounded the alarm about the pension crisis in June 2006, but his call for a dialogue with city unions went nowhere.

At the time, Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon reminded top mayoral aides of what happened in 1997, when the city robbed Peter to pay Paul -- and made the pension problem worse.

With union consent, City Hall reduced its contribution to the well-funded Laborers and Municipal Employees pension funds and funneled $20 million of that money into the underfunded police and firefighters pension funds. The landmark deal also paved the way for a $20 million property tax cut and $200 million worth of neighborhood improvements.

"I read 'em the riot act. I said, 'You came to us 10 years ago and we gave you relief.' We saved them hundreds of millions of dollars. They took money out of two good funds and gave it to police and fire. Now, they're saying those two good funds are in the same mess. And I reminded them that early retirement [which made the problem worse] was their idea," Gannon said then.

Friday, January 11, 2008

City watchdog fired

Inspector general fires employee for alleged shoplifting

January 11, 2008

Mayor Daley’s corruption-fighting inspector general fired one of his own employees Friday, six days after the $77,784-a-year assistant chief investigator was arrested for shoplifting at a Chicago grocery.

Fourteen-year veteran investigator Tracy Buckley was charged Jan. 5 with misdemeanor theft after Whole Foods employees watched her walk out of a store at 6020 N. Cicero with $131.43 worth of unpaid items.

Before deciding Buckley’s fate, Inspector General David Hoffman said he conducted interviews, read reports and viewed tape recordings made by Whole Foods security cameras.

They reportedly showed Buckley walking through several aisles, past a bank of cashiers and into an elevator leading to an underground parking lot without paying for a shopping cart full of food. Stolen items allegedly included a $44.84 boneless lamb stew and pork chops worth $21.17.

Buckley could not be reached for comment. She allegedly told police she was going to her car to get a different charge card that she intended to use upon returning to the store to pay for the items.

Hoffman apparently didn’t buy it -- and didn’t wait for the outcome of her criminal case.

“All city employees should be held to high standards of integrity, but these standards must be especially high for higher-ranking and prominent city officials. This higher standard definitely applies to employees of the inspector general’s office,” Hoffman said in a prepared statement.

Buckley is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 25.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Fox Guarding Hen House ?

City misconduct inspector accused of shoplifting

An investigator for a City of Chicago department that probes misconduct by city employees has been charged with shoplifting.

Tracy Buckley, 36, an assistant chief investigator for Inspector General David Hoffman, was charged with misdemeanor theft after trying to steal about $100 worth of merchandise Saturday from a Whole Foods Market at 6020 N. Cicero Ave., police said.

"We just learned about this on Saturday and today were beginning our inquiry into the matter," said Hoffman.

In the meantime, Buckley, who has been working for the inspector general's office since 1994, has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Attempts to reach Buckley for comment were unsuccessful this afternoon.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Rumor has it, ...

If you dont hear a good rumor by 11am start your own.

What City Commissioner will be moving to a new department due to him getting his secretary pregnant ?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

More Crook County Taxes and fees?

Stop the Cook County Phone Tax

Bad for Consumers.
Bad for Businesses. Bad for Everybody.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners has proposed a new tax of $48 per phone per year, which could raise some phone plans by as much as 131%! The proposed tax would apply to every phone – even to every cell phone and broadband line. If passed, this tax would hit the pocketbooks of all consumers and businesses in Cook County.

Click here to tell the Cook County Board of Commissioners to Stop the Phone Tax!

The new proposed tax would increase every year at the rate of inflation. This means that in five years, the total tax would be more than $250 per phone!

The County claims it needs the revenue from these taxes to save the health care system. We know that there are better ways for Cook County to save money, such as affordable technologies that can eliminate inefficiencies in our health care system and save millions of dollars.

Creating a new phone tax – on top of the many federal, state and local taxes that consumers already pay for each phone line – is not the answer.