Was Tony Rezko Obama's First Donor? It Depends.

I listened to David Freddoso’s appearance on a WGN radio show hosted by U. of Chicago Sociologist Milt Rosenberg, where Freddoso debated Dan Johnson Weinberger, an Illinois lawyer supporting Obama. Both sides overstated their positions – pro and con Obama - but I didn’t hear much that would justify the Obama campaign's response.

The most heated exchange was over whether Tony Rezko was Obama’s first donor when he first ran for the Illinois Senate in 1995-96. Freddoso said he was; Weinberger said he wasn’t. Freddoso then partially backed down and said that perhaps Rezko was the second donor.

If one limits the analysis to donations, Freddoso was correct the first time: Rezko tied for Obama’s first donor. If one includes loans as well as donations, then Rezko ties for the second donor to Obama’s campaign, though even that earlier loan came from someone who has ties to Rezko.

What the early donation patterns show is that Rezko (and people Rezko has had business ties to) were the primary people launching Obama’s finances in his first campaign. By a few months later, others had donated, including prominent liberals, lawyers from his firm, real estate developers, and the ACORN-linked union, SEIU.

Obama’s fundraising started in July 1995. Before mid-September 1995, he had one loan and three donations:

7/13/1995 LOAN: $5,000 Al Johnson (a Cadillac dealer, “who was trying to get a casino license along with Tony Rezko” at some point)

7/31/1995 DONATION: $1,000 Rezko Foods

7/31/1995 DONATION: $1,000 Lakefront Refreshments (a Rezko company)

7/31/1995 DONATION: $300 Barry Mcnamara (also a Cadillac dealer)

So Barack Obama’s first three actual donations were from two Rezko companies (contributing $2,000) and an individual (contributing $300), though there was an earlier loan from a man who was seeking a casino license with Rezko.

Obama’s first donations from outside Illinois were from a New York individual (Fatema Chandoo, who shares a last name with one of Obama's college buddies) and from the SEIU Local 880 Politcal Fund, 1024 Elysian Field Av, New Orleans, LA 70117-8402, one of the many infamous ACORN-associated organizations.

More here, here, here, here, and here.