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Obama's law days effective but brief

The head of his former firm says he did good work. But not all of it was related to voting and civil rights.

April 06, 2008|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

In 1995, the year his first book came out, Obama started his successful run for the Illinois state Senate, and stopped working full-time once he took office in 1997. He remained associated with the firm until he was elected to the U.S. Senate nearly eight years later.

In some instances, Illinois state Sen. Obama took action that could have benefited some of his firm's clients. In 1998, for instance, he used state Senate stationery to urge that state and city officials provide tax subsidies to help a partnership consisting of Davis and Rezko develop low-income housing, the Chicago Sun-Times reported last year.

In 2001, Obama was coauthor of a law that created a tax credit for people who donate land, buildings or construction material to help develop low-income housing.

Illinois state Rep. Jack D. Franks, a Democrat, lauded the bill, which garnered near-unanimous support. But Franks said that while the measure helped Obama's low-income constituents, it raises questions because his law firm's clients could have benefited from it.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, April 08, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
Obama's law career: An article in Sunday's Section A about Sen. Barack Obama's career as a lawyer said he was hired as a junior lawyer at the firm then known as Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Gallard and now known as Miner, Barnhill & Gallard. The correct spelling of the final surname is Galland.

"Someone else should have carried this legislation," said Franks, who has endorsed Obama's Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I can't fault him for the idea. But he is wearing two hats. He is a legislator, and he is serving as a private attorney whose client interests benefited here. This goes to the judgment issue."

Obama strategist Axelrod scoffed at the notion that Obama should have avoided such legislation.

He said that the beneficiaries were nonprofit corporations and people in need of low-cost housing.

"The shortage of affordable housing is a major public-policy concern of his and of the state," Axelrod said.

"His view of public policy is that you should use the tools of government to deal with some of the crying social needs that we have."


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