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Obama Cozies Up to Giannoulias

Maybe the president should have second thoughts.

3:47 PM, Aug 2, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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President Obama was believed to be avoiding Alexi Giannoulias. Why? Well, Giannoulias, who is vying for Obama's old Illinois Senate seat and is a former basketball buddy of the president, has become something of a political toxin. It became public that the former banker serviced loans to mobsters and crooks, and Giannoulias's own family bank collapsed, creating yet another political embarrassment for the candidate who is currently Illinois's state treasurer.

But Obama seems to have had a change of heart, and later this week he will host a political fundraiser for Giannoulias in Chicago. Will, perhaps, this latest news story from the Chicago Sun Times persuade the president from associating himself with Giannoulias? 

By February 2006, businessman and political fixer Tony Rezko was already politically radioactive, caught up in a federal investigation that would see him criminally charged by the end of that year.

News reports had linked Rezko, a key adviser and campaign fund-raiser for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, to shady deals involving state pension funds -- among the crimes that ultimately would send him to prison.

This was the Tony Rezko who, looking for millions of dollars for a massive South Loop development, turned to Broadway Bank, owned by the family of Alexi Giannoulias. Giannoulias, the Democrat now running for U.S. Senate, had left his post as a senior loan officer at the Chicago bank in late 2005 to mount a successful campaign for Illinois state treasurer, though he still held an ownership stake in the bank.

Rezko's company asked. And Broadway Bank came through.

On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, the bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included Rezko.

Obama himself was closely associated with Rezko. And he spent a significant portion of his presidential campaign trying to distance himself from the crooked real estate developer. So why would he insert himself into the middle of this fiasco now?

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