With all credit to the New York Times:
At Developer's Trial, Witness Recalls Seeing Obamas at 2004 Party for
By CHRISTOPHER DREW
Published: April 15, 2008
A government witness testified on Monday at the trial of the Chicago
businessman Antoin Rezko that Senator Barack Obama attended a party
in 2004 that Mr. Rezko held to court a controversial Iraqi-born
investor for a large real estate project.
Mr. Obama's presidential campaign has long said that the senator does
not recall meeting the investor, Nadhmi Auchi, a billionaire who has
been convicted on fraud charges in Europe. Mr. Obama's spokesman,
Bill Burton, said again Monday that the senator had no recollection
of attending any such event.
Questions about the senator's ties to Mr. Rezko, a former political
fund-raiser who is on trial on corruption charges, have dogged his
campaign. Mr. Obama has repeatedly said he never did anything to help
The witness, Stuart Levine, who once served on state boards, said
Monday that Mr. Rezko held the party at his Mediterranean-style home
in a Chicago suburb. News reports from the courtroom said Mr. Rezko
wanted to impress Mr. Auchi, who ultimately poured nearly $170
million into the real estate venture.
Several former Rezko associates have said that Gov. Rod R.
Blagojevich of Illinois attended a similar dinner that Mr. Rezko
hosted for Mr. Auchi at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. And while
Mr. Obama was not at that dinner, he recently acknowledged that he
had stopped by the hotel at another time when Mr. Rezko was
entertaining business associates.
Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat, has said that Mr. Rezko raised at
least $250,000 for his earlier political campaigns. Mr. Rezko also
bought a lot next to the Obamas' house and later sold them a 10-foot-
wide strip to expand their yard in a set of transactions that Mr.
Obama has since described as "boneheaded" on his part.
Mr. Rezko's lawyers have raised questions about Mr. Levine's
credibility on other issues, and Mr. Levine offered few details on
Monday about the party at Mr. Rezko's house. Mr. Levine said Mr.
Obama's wife, Michelle, was there. Mr. Obama's campaign said she had
no recollection of the event. Mr. Auchi's lawyer, Alasdair Pepper,
has said that his client does not remember meeting Mr. Obama.
Mr. Rezko's trial focuses on accusations of influence-peddling
involving state contracts, and Mr. Obama has not been implicated in
any of those dealings.
But Mr. Obama has faced questions from rival candidates about his
judgment in dealing with Mr. Rezko, whom Mr. Obama has described as a
Former business associates of Mr. Rezko say Illinois newspapers had
raised enough questions about Mr. Rezko's influence in state
government by 2005 that Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago told them
he would not approve city-related financing for part of the real
estate project if Mr. Rezko was involved. They said that decision
came a month or two before the Obamas closed on their house and Mr.
Rezko bought the adjacent lot.
Prosecutors in Mr. Rezko's case have said that Mr. Rezko asked
Illinois officials to help obtain a visa for Mr. Auchi's visit to
Chicago. The officials have not been identified, and Mr. Obama's
campaign has said he was not involved in that effort.