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Lawyer Tied To Indicted Obama Donor Hosts Clinton Fundraiser

Published: Jun. 26, 2007 at 3:31 PM EDT
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NEW YORK (AP) - A Chicago lawyer linked to the public corruption scandal involving Barack Obama's controversial political patron planned to co-host a fundraiser Monday for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Myron Cherry, a longtime Democratic fundraiser, appeared in a federal indictment against Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who faces extortion and fraud charges related to an Illinois public pension fund.

The federal indictment against Rezko alleges that in late 2003, he agreed to help get $25 million in state pension business for a firm that would pay a finder's fee to a business associate. But because of that associate's tie to Rezko, they agreed to disclose as the fee's recipient another, unidentified businessman, who allegedly did no work on the deal.

That was Cherry, according to a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing. The deal did not go through.

Cherry is not charged with any crime and is cooperating with investigators. He has publicly denied doing anything wrong. His connection to Rezko could be problematic for Clinton, as her chief rival, Obama, has been dogged throughout his presidential campaign by questions about his relationship with Rezko.

Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer declined to comment.

David Donnelly, a spokesman for Public Campaign, which advocates public financing of political campaigns, said the pace of fundraising made it almost impossible to identify every donor with professional connections that could be potentially embarrassing to the candidate.

"I don't think there is any screen that could weed out questionable money and run a competitive race for president," Donnelly said. "The entire campaign finance system puts candidates in a compromising situation in city after city."

A real estate developer and prodigious fundraiser for Democrats, Rezko has contributed thousands of dollars to Obama's campaigns throughout his political career and raised thousands more. Their relationship came under scrutiny after Rezko was indicted on federal charges last October.

Rezko's legal problems have been a source of embarrassment for Obama, who has tried to convince voters he is a different kind of politician - one not prone to scandals involving shady donors. The Obama campaign has donated about $37,000 in Rezko-related money to charity, and a spokesman said Obama hasn't been in contact with his former supporter for some time.

Cherry has contributed more than $87,000 to Democratic candidates since 2003, including Clinton's Senate re-election campaign in New York. Active in Jewish causes, he was named to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council by President Clinton in 2001.

Cherry also has done legal work for International Profit Associates, a management consulting company whose executives have made contributions to Clinton's two Senate races. The firm now faces a federal sexual harassment suit filed by more than 100 female former employees, and the Illinois attorney general is looking into allegations that the firm engaged in deceptive marketing practices.

Several elected officials have returned contributions from IPA executives. Clinton has kept the donations, estimated to be nearly $130,000.