Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Valerie Jarrett -- A new player in the Obama drama

HT to Professor Reynolds for highlighting this story from ABC News as to why Obama seems to be silent on the issue of the Olympics and Tibet. It looks like the woman that is in charge of a PAC he has is Valerie Jarrett. She is a part of his "kitchen cabinet," and Lynn Sweet, of the HuffPo, claims she's the "other side of Barack's brain." According to ABC News, Ms. Jarrett is also the chairwoman for the committee trying to win the Olympic bid for Chicago in 2016:

The junior Senator from Illinois has a particularly tricky balancing act when it comes to the subject of the Olympics: Chicago is vying to host the 2016 games and one of Obama's top campaign advisors and close friends, Valerie Jarrett, is the vice chair of Chicago's bid committee.

The Chicago Sun-Times made this revelation in April of last year when they announced that William Daley would join the team attempting to win the Chicago bid:

Chicago's Olympic pitch will have a family flair Saturday with Mayor Daley's brother William joining the team making the case in Washington to host the 2016 Summer Games.

Officials had earlier named the mayor; Patrick Ryan, insurance magnate and Chicago 2016 chairman; and Michael Conley, an Olympic gold medalist in triple jump.

The group hoping to persuade the U.S. Olympic Committee board to choose Chicago over Los Angeles to represent the nation in international competition will also include Valerie Jarrett, a real estate executive and former CTA chairwoman.

Jarrett, an African American, raised her Olympic profile this year when she addressed black aldermen who complained that the local Olympic organizing committee appeared to be a "white man's party club.'' Conley, also an African American, is the executive director of World Sport Chicago, a group charged with organizing Olympic-style events.

Bloomberg News had this to say of Ms. Jarrett and her relationship with Obama:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was up late, laboring over his speech on race relations, when one of his best friends decided he could use a distraction.

``I heard a funny story about a friend of ours and I sent him an e-mail and I cryptically described it,'' recalled Valerie Jarrett in an interview. ``Within five minutes, he called and he wanted the details.''

Jarrett's easy intimacy with both Obama, 46, and his wife, Michelle, has helped place her among his most important advisers. She brings to his campaign a background as one of the most powerful women in Chicago, where she was chairman of the Chicago Stock Exchange and served as city commissioner of planning and development. She currently sits on several boards, including that of USG Corp., a maker of building materials.

Jarrett, 51, a constant, behind-the-scenes presence on the campaign trail, has the Obamas' trust and attention, said William Daley, an adviser to the candidate and former commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton.

``I'd be pretty hard-pressed to think of somebody above her ability to impact major judgments,'' Daley said of Jarrett, an unpaid senior adviser to the campaign.

Her relationship with the Obamas dates back to 1991, when she hired Michelle to work for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, William Daley's brother. She grew close to Barack and has been a central participant in his meteoric political rise.

She is a very close friend of the family, and has been instrumental in both him and his wife's rise to prominence in the Chicago circle of politics. On a whim, I ran a quick search to see if she had any sort of contact with Chicago fixer, and longtime Obama friend, Tony Rezko. Lo and behold, I discovered this over at RezkoWatch:

Obama, now serving as a U.S. Senator, "professed total ignorance about the slum tragedies literally on his own doorstep," Martin wrote. "How, could a state senator in a poor neighborhood not know about eleven (count 'em) slum buildings in his own district? ... Especially when the state senator's own law firm represented the slum landlord?"

Martin, however, does not mention that it is not only Sen. Obama, but also his wife, Michelle Obama, who should have known what was going on in her husband's district.

An April 22, 2007, Chicago Tribune biographical profile relates that in summer 1991 a "young Sidley Austin attorney named Michelle Robinson" interviewed with Valerie Jarrett, who was then Mayor Richard Daley's deputy chief of staff.

Reporters Christi Parsons, Bruce Japsen and Bob Secter reported that, before accepting the subsequent job offer, Michelle Robinson said that first "her fiance", Barack Obama, "the independent-minded community activist [who] had privately expressed his political ambitions", wanted to meet with Jarrett.

What followed was a Chicago dinner meetup by Jarrett, Robinson and Obama:

This job would put his wife-to-be squarely in the offices of the man whose father had perfected the Democratic machine.

"My fiance wants to know who is going to be looking out for me and making sure that I thrive," Jarrett recalled Robinson telling her. ...At the end of the evening, Jarrett turned to Barack and asked, "Well, did I pass the test?" Obama smiled, put his head down, closed his eyes and said, "Yeah, you passed the test.

That was the start of a long relationship that has paid off politically for Barack Obama, connecting him to Daley's inner circle.

From summer 1991 until sometime in 1993, Michelle Obama was well-positioned at Chicago's City Hall.

Michelle Obama's "close and lasting friendships with Jarrett and many other top Daley aides, including former Corporation Counsel Susan Sher and David Mosena, who was the mayor's chief of staff when Michelle Obama first joined his administration", have endured, with their careers "frequently overlapped, and together they make up a network that reaches into virtually every aspect of Chicago politics."After leaving City Hall, Jarrett went on to lead the Chicago Transit Authority. She recruited Michelle Obama to the transit agency's citizen advisory committee.

Mosena, who now is president of the Museum of Science and Industry, served with Obama on the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. ...City Hall records show Michelle Obama, then still named Robinson, began work as a $60,000-a-year mayoral assistant in September of 1991. She didn't stay long in the mayor's office. Within weeks, Daley promoted Jarrett to run the new Department of Planning and Development. Obama followed.She had no background in economic development, but Obama served as a troubleshooter for Jarrett.

After only 18 months at the city, she left to launch the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, a group that sought to build future community leaders by arranging apprenticeships for young adults with non-profit organizations. Barack Obama was on the founding board of Public Allies, and it was he who recommended his new wife for the job as the Chicago chapter's first executive director, recalled Paul Schmitz, the current president of the group, which is now headquartered in Milwaukee and has chapters in many cities.

Bottom line? By early 1993, Michelle Obama had a good working knowledge of Chicago's infrastructure and topography, having worked as a mayoral assistant, with the Chicago Transit Authority, and in the Department of Planning and Development. Three years later, in 1996, when she left Public Allies for a position at the University of Chicago, her husband, Barack Obama, was serving or soon to serve with the Illinois State Senate. By this time, the Obamas each had, at minimum, four and half years of street-level experience in Chicago.

Note: Valerie Jarrett has served as treasurer of Barack Obama's leadership political action committee (PAC), the Hopefund.

"For more than five weeks during the brutal winter of 1997, tenants shivered without heat in a government-subsidized apartment building on Chicago's South Side," Tim Novak reported April 23, 2007, in the Chicago Sun-Times. This was "just four years after the landlords -- Antoin 'Tony' Rezko and his partner Daniel Mahru -- had rehabbed the 31-unit building in Englewood with a loan from Chicago taxpayers."

As Novak wrote, "Rezko and Mahru couldn't find money to get the heat back on" although "their company, Rezmar Corp., did come up with $1,000 to give to the political campaign fund of Barack Obama, the newly elected state senator whose district included the unheated building."

So, should Illinois State Senator have known what was going on in his district in 1997? Without question. To say anything else is disingenuous. As Novak wrote, Obama took campaign donations from Rezko "even as Rezko's low-income housing empire was collapsing, leaving many African-American families in buildings riddled with problems -- including squalid living conditions, vacant apartments, lack of heat, squatters and drug dealers."

Through Jarrett and Rezko, Obama was given the keys to the ins and outs of Chicago politics, with some of the most corrupt officials in recent history there. Granted, Chicago has never been a bastion of honest politicking. I'm not saying she was involved in the shady deals being carried out by Rezko and Company, however, her history of providing favors for Michelle Obama, linking Barack up with people like Richard Daley, and serving on boards around the city that Rezko had a connection with doesn't exactly paint a squeaky clean picture of Obama.

Publius II

ADDENDUM: I'm still digging on this aspect of the Obama drama, and I just located this post from Evelyn Pringle on CounterCurrents. About two thirds of the way down is this little nugget that connects Jarrett and Rezko to Obama's campaign:

When it came time for Obama's US Senate campaign, Valerie Jarrett became the campaign finance chairman and worked hand and hand with fellow finance committee members, Rita and Tony Rezko, and his former boss at the law firm, Allison Davis, in fundraising endeavors. The committee raised more than $14 million, according to Federal Election Commission records, Tim Novak reported in the Sun-Times on April 23, 2007.

Jarrett is now the CEO of Habitat Co, a real estate development and management firm which manages the housing program for the Chicago Housing Authority, the entity mandated to administer public housing, and she serves as an unpaid advisor to Obama's Presidential campaign.

Publius II


Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 04/10/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

April 10, 2008 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Polly said...

Another point of view: Who's Valerie Jarrett?

November 9, 2008 at 11:35 AM  

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