WASHINGTON – Presidential candidate Barack Obama will give $16,500 in contributions linked to an indicted donor to charity, part of the Democrat's effort to distance himself from a former friend and fundraiser.
The donations came from two Chicago businessmen who worked with indicted entrepreneur Antoin "Tony" Rezko, the one-time Obama friend.
Rezko has pleaded not guilty to charges that he shook down investment firms that wanted to do business with the state of Illinois. Obama last year gave charities $11,500 to clear his campaign fund of donations that had come directly from Rezko.
Obama's campaign has said it was donating to charity a $5,000 donation from Ali Ata, the former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority who was charged last week with trying to help Rezko borrow $10 million in loans.
Obama is now donating $10,000 from Joseph Aramanda, who has overseen Rezko pizza franchises involved in the investigation, and $6,500 from Dr. Paul Ray, the chairman of the urology department division of Cook County's Stroger Hospital. Aramanda and Ray have not been charged with any crimes.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Friday that the Illinois senator did not personally know Ata, Aramanda or Ray. Obama had hired Aramanda's son as a 2005 summer intern in his Senate office after Rezko recommended the intern.