The Rezko Refund

For 17 lucky charities, political contributions collected by Tony Rezko have been the gift that keeps on giving.

Earlier this year, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign announced it had donated to charity yet another installment of funds—$72,650—linked to indicted businessman and political insider Antoin “Tony” Rezko. That brought the total of Rezko-tainted contributions to Obama’s 2004 race for the U.S. Senate and earlier campaigns to about $150,000, by most accounts. The campaign has said it has given it all to charity.

Which ones? Chicago had the audacity to ask. The Obama campaign named 17 causes, some locally based, some national, but didn’t give amounts. (Full disclosure of the donations won’t be available until the next campaign finance filing deadline later this month.)

Michael Mark, executive director of the American Lung Association of Illinois-Greater Chicago, was surprised to receive a check in the mail from Obama’s campaign. “We thought it was a little odd when we got the check because usually with a political campaign, you give the checks—you don’t get them,” he says. Mark called an Obama campaign staffer, who explained that the money had come from campaign refunds that Barack and Michelle Obama wanted to give to their favorite charities. (Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton says campaign aides picked the charities, not the Obamas.) “I still didn’t make the connection [to Rezko] until later,” says Mark. “But we’re happy to receive the money.”

So was the Mission of Misericordia Heart of Mercy, another recipient. Asked whether the group was uncomfortable accepting money collected by Rezko, executive director Sister Rosemary Connelly says she was OK with it: “If it was Al Capone making a donation, we’d question it.”

Charities that received Rezko-linked funds

+ American Lung Association of Illinois-Greater Chicago
+ America’s Second Harvest
+ Better Boys Foundation
+ Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago
+ Center for Economic Progress
+ Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
+ Habitat for Humanity
+ Horizon Hospice and Palliative Care
+ Humanitarian Service Project
+ Infant Welfare Society of Chicago
+ Little Heroes Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation
+ Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation
+ Misericordia Heart of Mercy
+ National CASA Association
+ National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Greater Illinois
+ Northern Illinois Food Bank
+ Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization

 

Photograph: UPI Photo/A. J. Sisco

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