Biden has deep ties to Rezko accomplice
JOSEPH CARI | 30-year friend of VP pick guilty in kickback scheme
DENVER -- No matter what help Barack Obama might get from Sen. Joseph Biden, his newly named vice presidential running mate won't give Obama much cover on the Tony Rezko front.
Biden has described himself as a 30-year friend of a key figure in the Rezko trial who's pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge in Chicago and is awaiting sentencing.
When the Delaware senator began contemplating his own 2008 presidential run, he initially was helped by Chicago lawyer Joseph Cari Jr., who also served as Biden's Midwest field director in his failed 1988 bid for president.
In 2005, Cari admitted to taking part in an $850,000 kickback scheme that prosecutors say was part of a larger political fund-raising operation for Gov. Blagojevich overseen by Rezko, who was convicted in June of wide-ranging corruption involving state deals.
On the day Cari's name first surfaced in the federal probe of the state Teachers Retirement System, the former finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee and for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was to have hosted a Biden fund-raiser in Chicago. Cari was a no-show at that July 25, 2005, event.
Offering Cari a vote of confidence at the time, Biden said, "All I know is Joe Cari is a friend, and he's an honorable guy, but I don't know anything beyond that."
Biden took $2,000 in campaign contributions from Cari in the early and mid-1990s, federal campaign-finance records show.
Two other donors whose names surfaced in the Rezko case -- Chicago lawyers Myron "Mike" Cherry and Anthony Licata -- donated to Biden's U.S. Senate campaign, as well. Cherry has given Biden $5,900, while Licata gave $1,000. Neither Cherry nor Licata has been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.
Earlier this year, in a bid to distance Obama from Rezko, the Illinois senator's campaign fund gave away to charity an amount equal to what had been contributed to the Democratic presidential hopeful by Cari, Cherry and Licata.
The Obama campaign downplayed the significance of Cari's contributions to Biden, noting that Cari was a prolific donor to an array of other politicians, from Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to Illinois' other Democratic senator, Dick Durbin.
Still, an Obama spokesman said Biden would follow Obama's lead and divest his campaign fund of any money from Cari.
"As the former national finance director for the DSCC and DNC, Mr. Cari was a fund-raiser for many prominent elected officials," spokesman Ben LaBolt said. "If any contributions from Mr. Cari have not been returned or donated it is an oversight, and they will be immediately."http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/rezko/1124666,CST-NWS-rezko25.article