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Barack Obama's early political pal Tony Rezko convicted

June 4, 2008 |  5:40 pm

A federal jury in Chicago today convicted developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko of corruption charges for trading on his clout as a top adviser and fundraiser to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.Tony Rezko longtime Chicago political insider and early ally and helper of Barack Obama was convicted on federal corruption charges in Chicago today

Rezko's guilty verdict on 16 of 24 corruption counts could have broad repercussions for Blagojevich, who made Rezko a central player in his kitchen cabinet. It could also prove a political liability for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

He once counted Rezko as a close friend and early successful fundraiser, which could haunt him as the likely Democratic presidential nominee has now defeated Sen. Hillary Clinton and heads into the general election campaign against Republican Sen. John McCain.

The 10-woman, two-man jury deliberated for parts of 13 days before convicting Rezko of scheming with Stuart Levine, a longtime Republican insider, to extort millions of dollars from firms seeking state business or regulatory approval.

Rezko befriended many Illinois politicians and was a major fundraiser for some, most prominently Blagojevich and Obama. The criminal charges against Rezko had nothing to do with his connection to Obama.

But that link still proved a nagging headache for Obama during his Democratic presidential run, especially in the wake of Chicago Tribune revelations that tied Rezko to a 2005 real estate deal involving Obama's South Side home.

The verdict poses problems that are far more acute for Blagojevich, who swept to victory in 2002 with claims that he would clean up Illinois government after the scandal-plagued years of his Republican predecessor, George Ryan, now in prison.

The complete story by Bob Secter and Jeff Coen is available by clicking here.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo Credit: AP