Published December 27, 2006
CHICAGO – An intern in Sen. Barack Obama's office last year was recommended by an Illinois Democratic fundraiser later indicted for seeking kickbacks on government deals.
Obama has denied doing any favors for Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him. The internship was one of 98 Illinois spots filled from a pool of 350 applicants.
John Aramanda, a 20-year-old student, served in Obama's Capitol Hill office from July 20 to Aug. 26, 2005, and was paid an $804 stipend, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times in reports published Sunday.
Gibbs said Rezko recommended the intern to Obama but contended that the internship did not contradict Obama's statements about not doing any favors for Rezko.
"I think that it's fairly obvious that a few-week internship is not anything of benefit to Mr. Rezko or any of his businesses," he said.
The intern's father, Joseph Aramanda, a businessman in the Chicago suburb of Glenview, once served as chief operating officer of a Rezko company and had a long-term business relationship with Rezko, according to court records and business filings.
The intern's father said there was no relationship between the internship and his business with Rezko.
Rezko has pleaded not guilty to charges he plotted to squeeze millions of dollars in kickbacks out of investment firms seeking state business. He also has pleaded not guilty to obtaining a $10.5 million loan from GE Capital through fraud and swindling a group of investors.
Rezko's wife bought a vacant lot next door to Obama on the same day last year that Obama and his wife, Michelle, closed on their home, according to published reports last fall. In January, Obama paid Rezko $104,500 for part of the lot to balance the space between his house and the fence.
Obama, who is weighing a run for president, has said the arrangements were ethical, but he also acknowledged he "misgauged" the implications suggested by his purchase of the additional land.
Messages left Tuesday by The Associated Press for Obama's representatives and Rezko's attorney, Joseph J. Duffy, were not immediately returned.