Shenandoah County GOP

Obama’s Logrolling
October 15, 2008, 4:52 pm
Filed under: Congress, Domestic Policy, Election 2008

Throughout this campaign Barack Obama has run on the mantra of change, change, change. For example, he changed his views of earmarks after it became politically inconvenient. However, that didn’t stop him from making sure that his closest friends and supporters were taken care of:

Sen. Barack Obama, who vows to change Washington by trimming wasteful spending and disclosing special-interest requests, wrote the Bush administration last year to seek a multimillion-dollar federal grant for a Chicago housing project that is behind schedule and whose development team includes a longtime political supporter.

Mr. Obama’s letter, however, was never disclosed publicly. In fact, the letter was ghostwritten for him by a consultant for the Chicago Housing Authority, which wanted the money – a practice ethics watchdogs have frequently criticized.

The housing project through July had completed fewer than one-sixth of the 439 public housing units it had planned, court records show.

The Bush administration obliged Mr. Obama’s request, awarding a $20 million competitive grant last month from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It called the project a “shining example” of urban revitalization. The Washington Times learned of the letter from Republican operatives.

As Mr. Obama campaigns for president as an agent of change who promises to clean up Washington’s money game, his role in the Stateway project raises questions about the appearance of a conflict of interest and whether he has been participating in the very system he criticizes, watchdogs say.

Now some say that earmarks and similar state funds can be very helpful for communities. I think there may be some logic to that, but certainly not in these kinds of situations:

A charity being probed after it was handed $100,000 of taxpayers’ money by Barack Obama is headed by an “opportunist” whose own family wouldn’t trust him with a dime, The Post has learned.

Chicago Better Housing Association boss Kenny Smith is so desperate for cash, he launched a bitter courtroom battle with his 73-year-old disabled mom in an unsuccessful bid to take control of her $1,400-a-month pension and Social Security payouts, according to court papers and relatives.

His family last week told The Post they were amazed that Smith – a former volunteer for Obama who has donated $550 to his various campaigns – was trusted with the hefty state grant to build a botanic garden in his blighted South Side Chicago neighborhood.

Land earmarked for the plan is still overgrown and covered in garbage – eight years after then-state Sen. Obama steered the pork-barrel funds to the program.

The Illinois attorney general last month launched an investigation to find out what the Chicago Better Housing Association did with the cash.

“I wouldn’t go as far as saying Kenny’s an out-and-out crook, but he’s an opportunist,” said his brother-in-law, Robert Thomas.

Then, finally, Roll Call reveals that pro-Obama lobbyists have figured a work-around to the Senator’s famous ban on donations from their “ilk.” From Roll Call:

Obama has pledged to forgo lobbyists’ political contributions and minimized their role within his campaign. Yet, for the past two years, many lobbyists have found creative ways to stay involved, volunteering on policy committees or having spouses contribute to the campaign.

More recently, Washington-area lobbyists and lawyers have looked across the Potomac to the battleground state of Virginia to put their dollars and volunteer hours to use.

While lobbyists are also prevented from contributing to the Democratic National Committee, they can donate to Democratic state parties.

Last month, more than two dozen Democratic lawyers, lobbyists and political insiders did just that, holding a major fundraiser for the Democratic Party of Virginia.

The fundraiser’s primary purpose was to raise money for get-out-the-vote efforts, which would help all Democratic candidates on the ballot in Virginia.

The Sept. 16 event at Hogan & Hartson’s Washington office raised more than $125,000.

Headlined by a pair of Virginia Democrats, Gov. Tim Kaine and Senate candidate Mark Warner, it also included a number of early Obama supporters and longtime Democratic operatives.

Co-hosts included Stan Fendley of Corning, Tom Walls of McGuireWoods Consulting, Mike House of Hogan & Hartson, John Buscher of Holland & Knight and Dwight Fettig of Arnold & Porter, among others.

Virginia Democratic Reps. Bobby Scott and Jim Moran were also in attendance.

Virginia Democratic Party spokesman Jared Leopold said the state party has more than 2,000 new donors both within Virginia and across the Potomac.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in volunteers here in Virginia,” Leopold said. “It doesn’t matter to us if you are a lobbyist or a college kid. The point is to get out there and knock on doors.”

While the Virginia Democratic Party was the only beneficiary of the event, it was nonetheless an outlet for those frustrated by Obama’s strictures against lobbyists contributing to the greater Democratic Party cause, said one Democrat at the event.


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