A February 20 ABCNews.com article about Sen. Barack Obama's 2005 home purchase noted that "Obama denies there was anything unusual" about the price he paid for his Chicago home in 2005, but omitted the fact -- reported in a February 18 Bloomberg News article to which the ABCNews.com article referred -- that the sellers of the home have corroborated Obama's statement.
From the February 20 ABCNews.com article:
Watchdog groups are questioning why it took Sen. Barack Obama more than a year to disclose additional details of his dealings with indicted fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko.
While Rezko was known to be under federal investigation, Obama toured a Chicago-area home with him to get his opinion of the property, Obama's campaign revealed to Bloomberg News for a story published Monday. The politician later bought the home, with Rezko's help, who bought the adjoining lot in what was effectively a package deal.
Until then, Obama has professed trouble recalling such details during interviews with reporters.
Responding to questions about Rezko and the home sale last month, the Obama campaign repeatedly cited the candidate's on-the-record statements: "I don't recall exactly" conversations about the house with Rezko; "I am not clear" how Rezko decided to join in the purchase; and "I may have mentioned to him the name of a [developer] and he may at that point have contacted that person."
Pressed for more details, the campaign declined to provide any that were not then part of the public record.
The junior senator from Illinois has been answering questions on Rezko's involvement in the house purchase since news of it broke in 2006. In the 2005 deal, Obama purchased a house for $300,000 less than its owners were asking, and Rezko simultaneously bought the adjacent lot from the same seller at full price. Obama denies there was anything unusual about the price disparity. He says the price on the house was dropped because it had been on the market for some time but that the price for the adjacent land remained high because there was another offer.
Obama called it "bone-headed" to have engaged in financial dealings with the wealthy Chicago political operative, particularly as federal agents were reported to have been investigating Rezko for alleged corruption. He has also said he was "confident that everything was handled ethically and above board."
From the February 18 Bloomberg News article:
The couple who sold Barack Obama his Chicago home said the Illinois senator's $1.65 million bid "was the best offer'' and they didn't cut their asking price because a campaign donor bought their adjacent land, according to e-mails between Obama's presidential campaign and the seller.
The Illinois senator has said he made a "boneheaded'' move in involving contributor Antoin "Tony'' Rezko, a Chicago businessman, in the purchase of the property on June 15, 2005.
Rezko's wife, Rita, also an Obama donor, bought the adjoining plot in Hyde Park from the couple, Fredric Wondisford and Sally Radovick, for the $625,000 asking price, the same day that Obama bought the house for $300,000 less than the asking price. Antoin Rezko was under federal investigation at the time.
The sellers hadn't previously made their side of the story public out of concern for their privacy, according to Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama's campaign. They approached Obama's Senate office 15 months ago and agreed to break their silence now through the campaign out of concern that the story was being distorted in the media, Burton said.
Burton said Obama, 46, toured the property with Rezko for 15 to 30 minutes at some point before the purchase. Burton said Obama wanted Rezko's opinion of the property because Rezko was a real-estate developer in the area. Burton said he didn't know when the pre-sale tour occurred.
Burton said a campaign adviser discussed the sale with Wondisford by phone and followed up with an e-mail to Wondisford repeating his points. Wondisford responded: "I confirm that the three points below are accurate,'' according to the e-mail, provided to Bloomberg News and authenticated through records shown by the adviser.
The e-mail says that the sellers "did not offer or give the Obamas a 'discount' on the house price on the basis of or in relation to the price offered and accepted on the lot.'' It also says that "in the course of the negotiation over the sales price,'' Obama and his wife, Michelle, "made several offers until the one accepted at $1.65 million, and that this was the best offer you received on the house.''
Wondisford has declined to talk directly about the matter.
The Obamas submitted three bids: $1.3 million on Jan. 15, 2005; $1.5 million on Jan. 21; and $1.65 million on Jan. 23, according to a copy of the sale contract shown to Bloomberg News. Obama received more than $1.2 million in book royalties and a book advance in 2005, the year he was sworn in to the U.S. Senate, his financial disclosure statement shows.
The e-mail between Wondisford and the campaign adviser also says that the sellers had "stipulated that the closing dates for the two properties were to be the same.'' In January 2006, Rita Rezko sold the Obamas one-sixth of the lot, for $104,500, to expand their yard. She later sold the rest of the land to Michael Sreenan, who said by e-mail yesterday that he bought it in late December 2006 for $575,000.