December 17, 2006

Barack ‘Obambi’ Obama Gets $300K Break on Home Purchase (Plus: Update on the Ms.)

NOTE: “Obambi” is the nickname given to Barack Obama by New York TimeSelect columnist Maureen Dowd (link to article requires TimeSelect membership; 2008 update — link corrected for TimeSelect’s demise):

If you don’t like the nickname, kindly take it up with The Times. I don’t look gift horses (or other animals) in the mouth. :–>

Dowd is the gift that keeps on giving. “Hillzilla” could also turn out to be useful. Maybe Dowd has gone Rovian.
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WaPo has the story, but is strangely not curious about whether there is any relationship between the person who sold Barack Obama and his family the home they bought last year and longtime Obama acquaintance Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who is criminally accused of influence-peddling in unrelated matters involving Illinois’ current Democratic governor:

In June 2005, in what Obama now describes as a “boneheaded” mistake, Obama and Rezko’s wife bought adjacent properties on Chicago’s South Side, closing the deals on the same day. Seven months later, wanting a bigger yard for his $1.65 million house, Obama bought a slice of the Rezko property for $104,500.

After news of the deal broke last month in the Chicago Tribune, Obama said he had erred by creating the appearance that Rezko had done him a favor by selling him a portion of the lot. For the first time since he entered the national spotlight, the 45-year-old freshman senator found himself on the defensive, discussing a personal decision he had come to regret.

….. The Obamas purchased the house, which had been on the market for several months, for $300,000 below the list price. On the day they closed, Rezko’s wife, Rita, closed on the 9,000-square-foot lot next door for the asking price of $625,000.

Obama said Rezko, who knows the neighborhood, was one of several people he called for advice on the real estate market. Rezko told him he knew the developer who renovated the house. In a later conversation, Rezko said he intended to buy the empty lot and build on it.

Later, the Obamas bought a 10-foot-by-150-foot piece of the lot for $104,500. An appraisal put the value of the strip at $40,500, a spokesman said, but Obama considered it fair to pay one-sixth of the original price for one-sixth of the lot.

This has the appearance of a clever misdirect. What’s bigger news, possibly overpaying $64K for part of a lot, or definitely underpayng $300K for his principal residence (because an appraisal almost certainly exists, and WaPo didn’t qualify its “under market” statement in any way)?

Will this be another item, like his ears, that Obama will become sennnnsitive about, and consider off-limits from further comment or investigation? Will the left-leaning press defer to such a request?

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UPDATE: Michelle Obama may have more to worry about than her husband. First, from Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business (supported by quite a few Windows Media vids here; link within excerpt added by me):

….. while Mr. Obama bashes Wal-Mart, why does his wife, Michelle, make $45,000 a year (along with options currently worth $60,000) serving on the board of a Chicago-area company that pays its executives a very hefty amount of money while laying off mostly minority workers in an economically deprived area, a company whose No. 1 customer is — you guessed it — Wal-Mart?

Hefty exec salaries? Very:

Wow, I never thought there was that much money peddling pickles, non-dairy creamer, puddings and related goods to grocery stores, which is what TreeHouse does. Apparently I was wrong. In 2005, TreeHouse CEO Sam Reed was one of the highest-paid executives in Illinois. In fact, on Crain’s annual Fortunate 100 list of best-compensated execs, Mr. Reed ranked No. 2, with total compensation of nearly $26.2 million, just ahead of Motorola Inc. chief Edward Zander and Abbott Laboratories boss Miles White.

Then there’s the promotion and the “salary bump” she received (HT America’s Next First Lady) “somehow” just a few months after her beloved won a US Senate seat:

Officials at the University of Chicago Hospitals on Tuesday explained a large salary jump for Sen. Barack Obama’s wife shortly after he took office as a normal promotion that reflected expanded duties in her job as a liaison with the South Side community surrounding the medical center.

Michelle Obama was promoted to vice president for external affairs in March 2005, two months after her husband took office in the Senate. According to a tax return released by the senator this week, the promotion nearly tripled her income from the hospitals from $121,910 in 2004 to $316,962 in 2005.

But don’t worry. These two alleged champs of the little guy, who look more bought and paid for with each passing day, will sort things out …. during their two-week Hawaiian vacation over the Christmas holiday.

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