Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama's Pal Whitaker Rezko Appointee

One of Barack's friends in line for a presidential appointment has ties to Tony Rezko. The Chicago Way Comes to Washington, take two. Lynn Sweet's blog, Sun Times:
Dr. Eric Whitaker and Sen. Barack Obama go way back.

Their friendship began when they were graduate students at Harvard University. Now, Whitaker is one of Obama's closest advisers.

Whitaker, 43, of Chicago, often travels with the presidential hopeful on the campaign trail and has vacationed with him in Hawaii. There's talk Whitaker could be in line for a federal appointment if Obama becomes president.

Five years ago, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, gave a "glowing'' reference for Whitaker to Tony Rezko, the now-convicted political fixer who helped Gov. Blagojevich find people to run state agencies. Blagojevich hired Whitaker to be the state's public health director.

Obama has said that's the only time he can recall talking to Rezko -- who was a major campaign fund-raiser for him and for Blagojevich -- about getting anyone a state job.

"Somebody who I do remember talking directly to Tony about was Dr. Eric Whitaker," Obama told the Sun-Times in March. "He and I played basketball together when he was getting his master's in public health at Harvard, while I was in law school there. He had expressed an interest in that job. I did contact Tony, or Tony contacted me, and I gave him a glowing recommendation because I thought he was outstanding.''

Fix it, Tony, fix it. More, emphasis mine:

As state health chief, Whitaker spent millions on programs that used churches to educate minorities about AIDS,[must have missed the Rev. Wright's church, hmm on that subject] breast cancer and preparing for public health emergencies, a program hailed nationwide.

Whitaker's agency also got caught up in scandal. He oversaw the budget of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which approves medical construction projects. Rezko and his associates controlled that board, which they used to solicit kickbacks and payoffs, according to testimony at Rezko's trial.

Rezko was convicted. Whitaker, who said he wasn't involved in the board's day-to-day operations, was never accused of any wrongdoing.
Well, well, well. From my 10/2 post:
Rezko has been quietly talking to the Feds and is expected to be sentenced a week before the election. Most of the onus is on the Governor, but Obama has a few worries too.
Since that post sentencing has been postponed, as Tony apparently has a lot to say. Could Tony actually be singing about this? Classic timing: then Whitaker left the job and joined the U of C hospitals where Michelle Obama works:
When he was hired, U. of C. was seeking permission to expand its children's hospital -- one of five expansions the university sought from the state while Whitaker was health director. All were approved by the planning board. Whitaker and the U. of C. said he had nothing to do with those approvals.

"Whether and to what extent Dr. Whitaker had anything to do with the [approval] process while at IDPH was and is totally irrelevant to his hiring by or his work at the Medical Center," wrote Susan S. Sher, a medical center attorney.

The spotlight is on Chicago. We may see a few rats.

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