WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is donating to charity a $5,000 contribution to his 2004 Senate campaign from an indicted former Illinois official, a spokesman said Friday.
Ali Ata, the former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority, was charged Thursday with trying to help entrepreneur Antoin Rezko borrow $10 million in a fraud scheme.
Rezko has already been charged with trying to shake down investment firms that wanted to do business with the state, and his personal and financial relationship with Obama has been an issue in the Illinois senator's presidential campaign.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the senator was on a flight Friday afternoon so it was unclear whether he and Ata knew each other personally besides sharing a close mutual friend in Rezko.
Ata, a frequent political contributor, donated $5,000 to Obama's Senate campaign on June 30, 2003. After being asked about the donation by The Associated Press, Burton said $5,000 from the Senate campaign account would be donated to an unspecified charity.
Rezko met Obama in 1990 and has helped raise millions for the rising political star. Rezko and his wife had donated $11,500 personally to his 2004 Senate campaign, which Obama donated to the Better Boys Foundation in Chicago two weeks after Rezko's indictment.
Prosecutors said Ata produced a bogus letter designed to help Rezko borrow $10 million to buy two groups of pizza restaurants at inflated prices.
Obama and Rezko's wife also were involved in a real estate sale that the senator has called a "bonehead" business transaction, but he insists the arrangements were ethical and proper.