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Obama donates more tainted funds

January 30, 2008|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he would give to charity an additional $72,650 in 2004 political donations associated with his onetime patron, Antoin Rezko, who faces corruption charges in Chicago.

The money represents donations from Rezko family members, employees and "others who may have contributed through his efforts" to Obama's 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Obama's campaign said in a statement.

With the latest move, Obama will have given $149,985 in Rezko-related money to charity. Rezko, who was indicted in 2006 before the senator from Illinois launched his run for the White House, has given no money to Obama's presidential campaign.

The Los Angeles Times has identified $200,000 in donations from Rezko, his family members, company employees and other business associates. They date back to Obama's first run for the Illinois state Senate in 1996 and his unsuccessful 2000 congressional race.

But Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement that "by refunding these donations, the campaign has returned any and all funds that could be reasonably credited to Mr. Rezko's political support."

In Chicago, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve on Tuesday ordered that Rezko remain in jail pending his trial, set to begin Feb. 25, the Chicago Tribune reported. Rezko, a real estate developer and restaurant-franchise owner, is charged with extorting kickbacks and campaign contributions from firms seeking business with the state teacher pension fund and from a board that oversees hospital construction.

Rezko claimed in court that he was nearly broke. But St. Eve ordered him jailed Monday after prosecutors discovered that he had received almost $3.5 million that was wired to the U.S. from Beirut. Prosecutors said they worried that Rezko, born in Syria, would flee to the Middle East.

Before his legal troubles, Rezko bundled money for numerous politicians, including President Bush and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Obama is not implicated in the case. However, a government document contains a paragraph suggesting that Rezko used $10,000 from a kickback to make a donation to a "political candidate," identified by a source familiar with the case as being Obama.

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