Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama is giving charity more than $40,000 in past political contributions linked to Chicago real estate developer and fast food magnate Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who is facing federal corruption charges, his campaign said Saturday.
The contributions are from seven individuals who contributed to Obama's House and Senate campaigns. None of the money was for his
current presidential bid.
"Recent public information has called into question contributions to the Obama campaign from a donor and fund raiser," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement Saturday. "It is the policy and practice of the campaign to review all such new information and dispose of questionable funds such as the potential illegal 'straw donations' that campaigns, like other presidential campaigns this cycle, must address as new facts emerge.
"Our consistent practice in these circumstances is to give the funds to charity out of an abundance of caution," Burton said.
The decision to dispose of the money came after the Chicago Sun-Times reported Saturday that Obama is the unnamed "political candidate" mentioned in one paragraph of a 78-page prosecution
document that outlines the case against Rezko.
Rezko, a longtime fund raiser for Obama, is charged with fraud,
attempted extortion and money laundering. Prosecutors say he conspired to get campaign money and payoffs from firms seeking to
do business before two state boards.
Obama has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The returned money includes three $10,000 contributions from donors that the campaign identified as having connections to Rezko. They are Michel Malek, Craig Morgan and Elie Maloof.
When prosecutors unsealed their charges against Rezko in October
2006, Obama gave $11,500 in Rezko contributions to charities.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)